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The Daylight Gateby Jeanette Winterson
Synopses & Reviews
Set in seventeenth-century England during the reign of James I — the monarch who wrote his own book on witchcraft — The Daylight Gate is best-selling writer Jeanette Winterson's re-creation of a dark history full of complicated morality, sex, and tragic plays for power.
This is a world where to be Catholic is a treasonable offense. A world where England's king vows to rid his country of witchery popery popery witchery” and condemns the High Mass and Black Mass as heresies punishable by torture, hanging, and burning.
Winterson's literary suspense tale takes us deep into a brutal period of English history, centered on the notorious 1612 Pendle witch trials — an infection of paranoia that crossed the ocean with the Pilgrims and set the scene for the Salem witch hunt.
Good Friday, 1612. Pendle Forest. A gathering of thirteen is interrupted by local magistrate Roger Nowell. Is this a coven or a helpless group of women trying to save their family from the stake? Already two stand accused of witchcraft. The wealthy, respected Alice Nutter tries to defend them, haunted by her own past entanglement with magick. She doesn't believe in the Devil, but as she fights for justice, her life is endangered by forces visible and invisible.
"To open The Daylight Gate is to be thrust into an England most Americans will have trouble believing ever existed. It's a wild, superstitious place where the king (James I, Protestant son of the very Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots) has minions who prosecute (and, arguably, persecute) people suspected of witchcraft or Catholicism. Winterson starts with the historical record — the 1612 Lancashire Witch Trial really happened — and adds poetry, possibility, Shakespeare, Elizabethan Magus John Dee, a sexy priest on the run, a lifelong love between two women, and best of all, her version of real-life accused witch Alice Nutter. Using the fact that Nutter was from a different class than the group she was tried and executed with, Winterson creates a character straight out of fantasy. Alice is vividly beautiful, suspiciously young-looking, and while not a witch herself, acquainted with what witches call the 'Left-Hand Path,' having worked with Dee on his alchemy and seen her female lover sell her soul to the devil, here called 'the Dark Gentleman.' Disliked for her power and fearlessness — she rides astride and harbors suspected witches on her land — when the hunts for Catholics and witches converge, so too do her past and present. The book is short, violent (both torture and magic are depicted with full goriness), and absorbing. The language is simple and sometimes lovely, and to say that the book could have gone the extra mile and been a graphic novel is not to damn it, but to recognize the pleasure in its intensely visual qualities. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Sophisticated....Visceral....Utterly compulsive, thick with atmosphere and dread, but sharp intelligence too." The Telegraph
"Winterson's writing has an uncanny glow: Her pared-down, poetic prose serves as an artful yet unobtrusive foil to the quick, visceral cadence of a plot that walks a fine line between gothic horror and historical fiction, tempering the shock value of its sex and violence. From one gruesome development to the next, Winterson's haunting imagery and narrative immediacy captivate...an engrossing story that's sure to leave you shivering." Catherine Straut, Elle
"More than a re-imagining of a vanished moment. It is concerned with freedom, choice, and destiny, truth to emotion and to personal experience, the nature of conviction and belief, evil and, above all, good....Winterson's intensely graphic descriptions of the witches' practices and their suffering create a fictional world of claustrophobic nightmarishness....The Daylight Gate is angry, red in tooth and claw, bloody, suppurating, replete with an agony that is startlingly physical....The novel is a tour de force of horror writing, but it never descends into shilling-shocker territory. It's an almost impossible balance for the writer to strike, but Winterson succeeds triumphantly....Slips effortlessly between apparent realism and full-throttle fantasy, grotesquerie or burlesque. It makes for exhilarating if unsettling reading.” The Saturday Times
"Gripping....The narrative voice is irrefutable; this is old-fashioned storytelling, with a sermonic tone that commands and terrifies....[Winterson] knows where true horror lies. Not in fantastical dimensions, but in the terrestrial world. Most grotesque and curdling are the visceral depictions of seventeenth century Britain — the squalor, inequality, and religious eugenics....As well as being a gripping Gothic read, the book provides historical social commentary on the phenomenon of witchcraft and witchcraft persecution." The Guardian
"The beauty of the writing, exemplary in its pared-down simplicity...[is] so seductive that by the middle I was hooked." The Independent
Set in a time when politics and religion were closely intertwined, The Daylight Gate is best-selling writer Jeanette Wintersons re-creation of a dark history full of complicated morality, sex, and tragic plays for power. A literary suspense tale based on the most notorious witch trials in English history, this Gothic chiller opens in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when every Catholic conspirator in England fled to an untamed place far from the reach of London law.
Good Friday, 1612. Deep in the woods of Pendle Hill, amidst mossy baptismal pools and low, thick fog, a gathering of thirteen is interrupted by local magistrate Roger Nowell. Two of their coven are already imprisoned for witchcraft and are awaiting trial, but those that remain are vouched for by the wealthy and respected Alice Nutter.
Shrouded in mystery and gifted with eternally youthful beauty, Alice is established in Lancashire society and insulated by her fortune. But she is also plagued by questionable allegiances and rumors of a lethally torrid love affair with another woman, the matriarch of the notorious Device clan. As the persecuted retreat into darkness and throw their hopes behind the promise of a vengeful magic, Alice stands alone as a realm-crosser, a conjurer of powers that will either destroy her or set her free.
This is the reign of the brutal Protestant king James I. This is Lancashire. This is Pendle. This is witch country.
About the Author
Born in Manchester, England, and adopted into a family of Pentecostal evangelists, Jeanette Winterson is the author of seventeen books, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, and The Passion. She has won many prizes including the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, the John Llewllyn Rhys Prize, the E. M. Forster Award, and the Stonewall Award.
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