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The Daylight Gate [Hardcover]

Jeanette Winterson
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

16 Aug 2012

Can a man be maimed by witchcraft?

Can a severed head speak?

Based on the most notorious of English witch-trials, this is a tale of magic, superstition, conscience and ruthless murder.

It is set in a time when politics and religion were closely intertwined; when, following the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, every Catholic conspirator fled to a wild and untamed place far from the reach of London law.

This is Lancashire. This is Pendle. This is witch country.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Hammer (16 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099561859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099561859
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 117,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester and read English at Oxford, during which time she wrote her first novel, the Whitbread award winning Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Tanglewreck, Jeanette's first novel for children, was published to great critical acclaim in 2006. In the same year she was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

Product Description



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. Even in a book as melodramatic as this, she manages to convey character and setting with so few words that you scarcely notice it has been done... Winterson does all that any Hammer reader would want - and probably too much for some squeamish types - as well as writing a novel of subtlety and depth. It is also, amid the blood, mud and violence, intensely poetic. The imagery of the wild land with its dark towers and possessed creatures - animal and human - underpins a story about love and death and the possibility of unseen worlds. It is one of the very few contemporary novels that I actually wished were longer." (Literary Review)

"This I ought to say, is 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)


Beautifully written.

" (Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

A new Hammer novel, and a Top Ten bestseller in hardcover. A tale of magic, superstition, conscience and ruthless murder, by one of the UK's most acclaimed literary writers.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Messy and muddled (review contains spoilers) 22 May 2013
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ms Winterson Sells Her Soul 20 April 2013
I am curious as to how this commission may have come about. An Arrow Books
publication in association with Hammer (as in Hammer Films), the jacket
indicates that the book is "Soon To Become A Major Hammer Film". God forbid!
(One imagines a man in a black cloak coming to Ms Winterson's room at midnight
offering a sheet of parchment and a sharp pin. A contract signed in blood perhaps?)

This retelling of a tale of witchcraft and persecution in early 17th century
Pendle, Lancashire (the trials referred to took place in 1612) is a clumsily
written and grotesquely sensationalist account of an unimaginably horrible crime.
I found myself increasingly troubled by the author's absorption in the
ghastly finer details of abuse and torture of the hugely vulnerable group of
woman and children at the heart of her narrative. One has a sense that the
horror has been ramped-up to the nth degree to fulfill a cinematic brief and
that she has lost touch with the true awfulness of the actual historical events
and the unimaginable suffering of the victims. It is a crude and inhumane vision.

This grubby invention seems in every way to shamefully compromise her craft.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Muddled and hastily written 7 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Amazon 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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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, readable, atmospheric 8 Feb 2013
By A Ryder
I enjoyed reading this one afternoon over the Christmas holidays, so I was surprised to read the many negative reviews and wanted to restore some balance.

I freely admit I don't know a lot about the Pendle trials, and I do have a thing about historical accuracy, so this would possibly have annoyed me if I were an expert, but I have checked with a friend in the know and she advised that the case is remarkable for how few facts are established. Fiction based on fact always treads a fine line concerning truth and decency, but given that the writer has to be free to imagine his or her own story, I don't think Winterson - whose work I hadn't hitherto read - oversteps the line here at all. I do know a bit about 16th and 17th Century English history and I don't find the sexual content unlikely. By our standards this was an absurdly patriarchal and violent society after all, and these were people subsisting on the margins.

As for Alice Nutter's bi-sexuality, perhaps that is an indulgence on the author's part, but it's hardly an outrage or smear on her character to suggest it. I did wonder about the Southworths, and went back to Fraser's 'Gunpowder Plot' volumes to check, and yes, they (and the connection with Dee and Shakespeare) are an addition to the known truth, but again, hardly a heinous link. There are also objections to Alice Nutter's owning a brothel. It's a bit more tentative, in that she isn't the 'Madam', but the absentee landlady. Moral objections are beside the point: Winterson's Alice has risen thanks to learning and skill, and must continue to fend for herself. It could be argued that the prostitutes she allows room in her Thamesside home would otherwise be on the streets.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, fact based fiction
A story about Witches with the Hammer name emblazoned on the front promises much but add to that mix a writer who is always pushing the boundaries and you have the potentially... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Colin Leslie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This book was an impulse buy and it was one of the best books, short stories I have read in a long time.Jeanette Winterson is a great writer, I highly recommend this book.
Published 1 month ago by Andthenitsgone
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too much fiction
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. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ceiniog
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful book
Very atmospheric portrayal of the cruelty that men inflict on one another and of a dark period in history. Beautifully written with great control and imagery.
Published 3 months ago by jfh
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the haters, it's good !
I'm a bit baffled by all of these reviewers who seem shocked that a book about the horrors committed against supposed witches is dark and violent and disturbing - what did they... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ron Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternative history of the Pendle Witches
Excellent imaginary version of events that lead up to the hanging of the Pendle Witches. Strong characters abd evocative prose. Very enjoyable.
Published 4 months ago by Kath Page
1.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculous!!
This book was a great disappointment. It is poorly written and the wallowing in cruelty, violence and extreme poverty seems gratuitous and insincere. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mrs Joy F C Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Horrible horror but generically interesting
Winterson's novel isn't a recreation of events in Lancashire in 1612, although some reviewers were understandably expecting that it might have more connection to the real lives and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Reader of witch books
1.0 out of 5 stars Ghastly gothic
I very rarely give a book one star, but I found the violence and abuse in this quite sickening. I skipped several passages about torture because they were so unpleasant to read. Read more
Published 4 months ago by KAW
4.0 out of 5 stars Witches Galore
A well written book about the Pendle Witches, although there seemed to be rather a great deal of license about the relationships between some of the woman which is probably typical... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
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