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The Daylight Gate Hardcover – International Edition, September 25, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

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*Starred Review* Winterson’s novels tend to be complex and invigorating. She excels at creating provocative and satirical meshes of tradition and innovation, as in her many-faceted riff on Robinson Crusoe in The Stone Gods (2008). But here wizardly Winterson hones her storytelling to a dagger’s point in an eviscerating variation on the epochal 1612 English witch trials in haunted Lancaster, a Catholic stronghold under James I, the new Protestant king. Like a witch over a cauldron, Winterson mixes historical figures (including William Shakespeare) with invented characters as she portrays a coven of horribly abused women and their starving, sexually exploited children, a desperate clan bravely defended by the mysterious and refined Alice Nutter. Wealthy, accomplished, and strangely ageless, Alice lives in solitary splendor, trusting only her falcon, and refuses to be intimated by the puffed-up witch-hunting lawyer, Thomas Potts, or the handsome, wily magistrate, Roger Nowell. But why does Alice risk all for the hideous crone, Old Demdike? Winterson summons up with forensic detail seventeenth-century filth, defilement, and torture while also conjuring occult forces and diabolical events. The result is a gripping tale of bloody religious persecution and brutal oppression of women and children, a heady and seething novel of fact, valor, “magick,” and love. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Review

"She is a master of her material, a writer in whom a great talent abides." --Muriel Spark, Vanity Fair
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Hammer (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099561859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099561859
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,526,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alan Baxter on January 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book was a dichotomy. Parts of it I really enjoyed, but the story, while based on true events, was too light on intrigue and the characters never really shone for me. The most developed character was the main character of Alice Nutter, but I had real trouble buying anything I was told about her. So much about her seemed artificial, with no basis or real explanation.

On the other hand, aspects of the story were really gripping and engaging. This would normally be a good thing, but there's a problem (see what I mean about dichotomy?) The story is a fictionalised account of the Pendle witch trials. Now, I enjoyed the style and feel Winterson created in telling that tale, but all the witches in this story really did practice witchcraft and the supernatural stuff was real. While I enjoyed that on one hand, as I'm a fan of horror and speculative fiction, it really bothered me, because all these historical folk were actually horrendously treated by puritanical, hysterical f-wits claiming to be doing god's work.

So while Winterson tells a quite fascinating supernatural tale, she kind of belittles the suffering and false accusations against these poor folk that really did happen.

And in considering the writing itself, there are moments of fabulous and searing quality where Winterson writes a beautiful turn of phrase, then moments later a bland and dull page. Or a simile or metaphor that just makes no sense.

Everything about this short book confused me as it seemed as though it was always trying to be two different things at once. But it was a short book and I enjoyed reading it, even though I was left ultimately disappointed. The dichotomies keep on coming. I just wish it had either been a stellar piece of historical fiction OR a spooky supernatural tale.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By MN Poetry Reader on October 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jeanette Winterson's new novel is based on historical fact - witch trials in England in 1610, under the rule of paranoid Protestant James I. It's a fascinating story and Alice Nutter, re-envisioned here as not the historical figure but as Winterson's hero, is a strong, brilliant woman who lives a life of her own choosing and dies on her own terms, not those of the court that tries and condemns her for the crime of witchcraft. Winterson's storytelling is powerful, as usual, but the novel lacks the depth and beauty of some of her other work. Still, recommended for anyone who likes Winterson's work, or anyone interested in the history of oppression of women as it played out in the witch trials in England and America.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Del Sesto on October 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm fascinated by witch trials, and I'm always looking for good fiction about them. I love Winterson's humor and gorgeous writing, so this seemed like a perfect match. I expect books about witch trials to be more interesting than they tend to be, but I forget that the antagonists in those stories are puritans and puritans are BORING!

That being said, this book gets an overall "pretty good" from me. It's a very short book. I read it in a couple of hours (on Kindle, so I couldn't really tell if the pages were sparsely worded but I'm guessing so). More of a novella, really.

I find Winterson one of the most quotable authors I've ever read, but I didn't get any of that from this book. The writing was simple, which was fine, but I have a certain expectation when reading her, and that wasn't met. There was humor in this book, though very subtle. I enjoyed that aspect very much.

There were a couple of fun surprises, so while this isn't a masterpiece, it's definitely worth reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
SPOILERS

Alice Nutter is a witch but one of the good ones who uses her powers to keep her looking young and letting the poor live on her land for free. But it turns out one of the poor wretches living on her land is one of the bad witches - who also used to be Alice's girlfriend! But she's all old and wrinkly because The Devil chose Alice instead of her. This might seem important but it's a plot point that's never really built upon so it means absolutely nothing. I mean, is youthfulness purely the only benefit of letting the Devil roger you? How about better powers like immortality?

While "The Daylight Gate" is based on real events - the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612 in Lancaster, England - Jeanette Winterson isn't above throwing in some flashback scenes showing a couple of the characters actually doing witch-like stuff, thus giving credence to the ninnies who went around pointing their puritanical fingers at half wits and screaming WITCH! So some of the accused witches were real witches which means... they were right to stand trial? After all the bad witch does try and kill her prosecutor.

Winterson also throws in some not-sexy-at-all group sex scenes and has children being raped throughout all of which amounts to her stern message to the reader - my, things are grim aren't they? Yes Jeanette they are. And?

There's a not-at-all romantic sub plot involving a fictional member of the Gunpowder Plot who somehow manages to survive the brutal torture - if you enjoy lengthy descriptions of torture, you'll love this book! - to escape to France only to return for his sister and Alice, both of whom turn him down leaving him to go to London where he stares out of a window. Effective sub-plot isn't it?
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