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The Daylight Gate (Hammer) Paperback – 14 Mar 2013

3.3 out of 5 stars 99 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hammer (14 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099561832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099561835
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"If you like her other novels, you will adore this. She has done her homework... the beauty of the writing, exemplary in its pared-down simplicity. It’s so seductive that by the middle I was hooked." (Independent)

"Sharp-eyed view of history... Winterson is at her best her when she’s dealing with real horrors." (Observer)

"This is a dazzling book. Winterson is a deft storyteller and a writer of wonderful economy. It is one of the very few contemporary novels that I actually wished were longer." (Literary Review)

"A book worth reading – utterly compulsive, thick with atmosphere and dread, but sharp intelligence too...Ultimately she combines compelling history and poetic dialogue with suspense...This rather more sophisticated story would make a particularly vivid film." (Telegraph)

"Winterson seamlessly blends history with fiction... The Daylight Gate is an enthralling story unfussily told, I read it all in one sitting, only wishing there were more." (Evening Standard)

Book Description

Based on the Pendle witch trials of 1612, an extraordinary story of magic, superstition, and ruthless murder by Jeanette Winterson, author of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you have read (and enjoyed) "Mist over Pendle" by Robert Neill, as I have, then I don't think you will like "The Daylight Gate." Both are based loosely on the events leading up to the witchcraft trials of the early seventeenth century in Lancashire. Their timelines overlap but are not coincident - "The Daylight Gate" starts with an event that occurs two-thirds of the way through "Mist over Pendle" and ends with the execution of the witches, while "Mist over Pendle" ends with the arrest of the witches. My main problem is that, whereas Robert Neill gives rational and plausible explanations of the "witchcraft," Jeanette Winterson seems to imply that there are really supernatural forces at work. In addition, the Lesbian relationship introduced by her seems to me to be gratuitous, unnecessary, and unlikely.
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Format: Paperback
I've loved a lot of Winterson's writing, and have enjoyed other books in this Hammer series - but sadly this combination just doesn't work here. Taking her cue from the real case of the Pendle witches, Winterson pulls together a heady brew of Satanism, anti-Catholicism, rape and sexual violence, torture and death.

The problem is that there's far too much going on in such a short novella, and that the whole thing gets increasingly convoluted as stray characters walk in and out. We have incursions, for example, from the retired Shakespeare making cryptic comments about magic, John Dee and Ned Kelley casting spells and appearing both in the flesh and after death, a lesbian love-affair (this is Winterson, after all!), an ex-Gunpowder Plot conspirator, and a magic elixir of youth...

The narrative shifts between `witches' as poor women who are victims of anti-female, anti-Catholic prejudices - and real witches who have sold their souls to the devil, which tends to dilute any political message that the text might want to make. It's also extremely disappointing that the one boon our `real' witch has is the aforesaid magic elixir of youth which keeps her young and beautiful...

So I'm afraid this is a disappointing read which is actually a bit incoherent. There's no historical sense of the seventeenth century, and the gory sex `n' torture scenes feel a bit gratuitous and sensational. An interesting experiment from Ms Winterson but, sadly, not one which worked for me.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read a couple of Winterson's novels and thought her autobiography (Why be Happy when you could be Normal?) was one of the best books I read last year, so I thought I would try her latest novel.
Unfortunately it comes across as hastily written (the hardback copy I received from Amazon was riddled with typos), the language is not particularly evocative, and the ideas behind the basic plotline are muddled. I found a lot of it completely implausible and I didn't really feel any empathy for any of the characters. The talking head just made me laugh (sorry!)
I wasn't expecting historical accuracy, but from Winterson I would have expected a bit more scepticism and a feminist outlook on the events of 1612, not so much actual real witchery popery popery witchery, which just came across as faintly ludicrous. I don't mind graphic details, but to be honest a lot of this was lurid and trashy.
Of course, writers don't always do what you might expect them to do, and that's fine, but it just didn't work for me. Probably didn't help that I'd just finished Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, and as a piece of historical fiction this didn't match up to it in any way, shape or form.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having grown up around Pendle and with the story of the Lancashire witches part of my heritage I find Jeanette Winterson's telling of the tale both disappointing and offensive. The only character I could sympathise with was that of Jane Southworth and found the antics of some of the other characters both ridiculous and risible. Far better to read Robert Neill's fictionalisation of the tale.
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Format: Paperback
This is a short novel about the infamous hunting down and trial of the Lancashire witches in 1612. Jeanette Winterson admits to being fairly liberal about the known events and characters of the times, and the supernatural and occult dominates the narrative. Given the author’s background, it is perhaps not surprising that the theme of the novel focuses on the abuses of power and sexual violation that society’s hierarchies have justified under the name of religion. It is a cruel and violent England; one of the few characters that evokes the reader’s sympathy being Alice Nutter – a rich and kind-hearted widow, who as a young woman was given the elixir of life by the mage John Dee. The malicious forces looking for evidence of witchcraft and Catholicism eventually hunt her down. This is by no means a gentle little tale of eccentric witchcraft, but a disturbing and graphic account of hatred and evil – absorbing, if not exactly uplifting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1612, ten women and two men were tried for witchcraft at Lancaster Castle. Of the accused, ten were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. One was acquitted, and one died whilst awaiting trial. The Pendle Witch Trials have passed into folklore as one of the most bizarre and arcane incidents in English history. Arthur Miller demonstrated that witch trials and panics are fertile ground for fiction, providing a historical canvas for authors to project modern concerns onto. Thanks to the efforts of a zealous clerk, Thomas Potts, we have an unusually full account of the trials at Lancaster, which provide the basis for Jeanette Winterson's The Daylight Gate.

While much of the text remains relatively faithful to the known facts, Winterson allows herself the occasional flight of fancy, especially the incorporation of Dr Dee and Shakespeare into the narrative. Her Alice Nutter is a very modern figure, an entrepreneurial sceptic with male and female lovers. This seems to have generated some rage amongst purists, but her more fanciful notions never detract from the emotional punch of the text. Winterson's skill as a novellist is revealed most strongly by her treatment of the witches' beliefs, and by the manipulation of the starving peasant children by their worldly interrogators. The destruction of the women as they await trial in Lancaster castle's squalid dungeons is especially affecting.

At 194 double-spaced pages, The Daylight Gate feels a little insubstantial, but Winterson's narrative provides a hefty dose of drama in a short volume. The pace never lets up, as characters are drawn ever further into the mass of lies and betrayals which will ensure their downfall. The characters are well drawn, with none falling into stereotype, and we see multiple viewpoints.
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