Book Review: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

October 2015 Hogarth Shakespeare

This was a terrific read, one that I recommend. It’s a retelling (or, as the author calls it, a “cover”) of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. It’s part of a series of retelling of his plays by different well-known authors like Margaret Atwood and Gillian Flynn.

Now, normally this kind of idea sounds too commercial to me. It raises a lot of skepticism on my part. Just because an author works with their own ideas well doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to be able to make something out of Shakespeare’s works. But, Shakespeare was himself commercial. His plays were presented alongside bear-baiting, a horrible blood sport that centered on the torment of a bound animal. So no matter what we think of Shakespeare today, in his time he was the definition of commercial.

So, anyway, about The Gap of Time. The author sets up different sections here to help guide readers through the time jumps and jumps in point of view. I appreciated that very much. I don’t mind at all, and tend to like, when a work makes me think a little; at the time I was reading this, though, I was sick and couldn’t manage as much mental effort as usual. So the divisions really helped keep me settled in the world.

It’s a contemporary world in which a lost orphan–a foundling, really, lost and found through very nicely proposed means–grows up and reconnects with her biological family. The connections don’t come through any efforts of her own; as in Shakespeare’s chaotic worlds, nearly everything is out of the players’ hands and they are swept along on currents that threaten to drown them as easily as deliver them to new lands.

That’s all I’m going to say about this work. Anything else would be a spoiler. I will tell you that it won’t end the way you expect, that you’ll very much enjoy the ride, and that the protagonist will capture you. You will want her to triumph. Whether she will…you’ll have to find out for yourself.

4 stars

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