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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, readable, atmospheric
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...
Published 19 months ago by A Ryder

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Messy and muddled (review contains spoilers)
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...
Published 16 months ago by Roman Clodia


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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Discovery of Witches, 7 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Daylight Gate (Hardcover)
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. Subplots engaging with Elizabethan mysticism and the Jesuits add further spice to the text.

The Pendle Witch Trials are a fascinating piece of English history, and Winterson's novella is a great starting point.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculous!!, 3 Dec 2013
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This book was a great disappointment. It is poorly written and the wallowing in cruelty, violence and extreme poverty seems gratuitous and insincere. The characters are poorly drawn and the narrative construction is confusing. Any political point about the persecution of poor, isolated women is lost with the invitation to the reader to accept the possibility of magic and witchcraft.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chilling Tale of Good versus Evil, 18 Aug 2012
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ACB (swansea) - See all my reviews
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Jeanette Winterson has again produced a novel that hits the reader with a narrative to ponder over. Not one for mincing her words, she has produced a book that is based on fact with the writer's prerogative to drive in her message with added creative embellishment.

England in 1612 is the background. The time of James 1st, a time of Catholicism, accusation and torturous purgatory. Witch-hunting and politically appropriate (in)justice is at the heart of the book. The Pendle witches' trial is infamous. Placed on trial in Lancaster, they were in a no-win situation. Guilty of sorcery or treason? Jeanette Winterson graphically leaves the reader to decide. Powerful Thomas Potts was the clerk of the courts with royal approval, later to circulate the proceedings of the judicial events in a 1613 publication. Inevitably, fate took its toll on the accused. The interim vivid accounts of the alleged misdemeanours of the witches are sickeningly hideous of their victims' fates. Unimaginable and justifiably and appropriately punished, if as it seems, true. Are the 'black arts' they practice of any reality or foresight? The rivalry between the families of Demdike and Chattox seems to have been one based on territory. Alice Nutter is a character with a past that is fundamental to the plot and remains mysterious until the end (no spoilers).

Winterson writes an atmospheric horror novel with a historical basis. Fact and fiction are expertly and seamlessly interwoven. Incisive, short narrative adds to the punch of the book. This isn't gratuitous, but is a reflection of a time when scapegoats were victims to satisfy individual or higher authorities. This is an absorbing, illuminating story of the life and times of an era where treading carefully was advisable. The legend of the Pendle Witches is still a money-earner in Lancashire. No smoke without fire, perhaps?

A read not for the squeamish but so well-constructed and intriguing from the author that a high recommendation is easily made. I did not feel it too short. It was concise. (Kindle price a bargain). A foundation for a film, probably.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ghastly gothic, 28 Nov 2013
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. I know that it was a dark and cruel time but I was unsure of the motive for including so much abuse in this book, the incest and child abuse was a step too far.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Witches, 12 Nov 2012
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Gillian Thompson (Herefordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Daylight Gate (Hardcover)
I was disappointed in the book - it just seemed a regurgitation of the known facts with a bit of unnecessary and gratuitous sex... a shame as this is a good writer with a fascinating subject!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Defies easy definitions!, 15 Aug 2012
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Adrian Drew (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Daylight Gate (Hardcover)
An interesting novella which brings an additional dimension to both Winterson's previous work and the Hammer "genre" itself.

The writer has considerable "style" and from the opening sentences about "the north" you know you are in the hands of a master (mistress?) crafts-person.

However the book does feel rather more like a treatment for a potential film project than a fully fledged novel. There is little sense of developed characterisation and some errors in detail (eg how long it would have taken to get from France to Lancashire etc). As a result you don't really engage in the narrative or really care about the characters or plot.The biggest problem is identifying who this book is intended for and this has been picked up in several paper reviews. Still, breaking the rules is very typical of JW and this mixture of magic, historical fact and decidedly "gothic" chills, defies easy definition. So with very substantial caveats I would recommend it as a pre-Hallowe'en read or for anyone visiting the Pendle area who wants a rather more imaginative re-telling of the story of the local witches than those pamphlets available at the tourist information centre. However this book is neither 'Mist over Pendle' or Aimsworth's 'The Lancashire Wiches' both of which have considerably more detail and narrative power. "The Daylight Gate" is simply a rather slight "diversion" which left this reader occasionally entertained, bemused but ultimately unsatisfied - and as an admirer of Winterson and much of her work, disappointed too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like the auther has written before, 12 July 2014
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Nothing like the auther has written before. Not to my liking what so ever, gave up part way through the book as could not follow the plot as it jumped from here and there. Will think twice about buying her books again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could not recommend it., 9 Aug 2013
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Completely disappointed in this book and would easily give it away. I was hoping it would be a more in depth narrative about Pendle but sadly not the case.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Daylight Gate, 23 Jan 2013
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The Daylight Gate
An interesting but difficult read, not for the delicate of stomach. It is the first time I have ever read any of Jeanette Winterson's work - but certainly not the last - and certainly I hope to do more factual research into the facts of the people involved, charges and trial of the Pendle Witches. It did muse me to see how many of the names are used by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in 'Good Omens'!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't do justice to the subject., 6 July 2013
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A short book – too short. The author has based the book on the Lancashire witches’ trials in the early 17th century. She doesn’t do justice to the subject, which has serious social, religious, judicial and political elements. She wallows in the stench, obscenity, and superstition around witches and popery of that era. The story encompasses paedophilia, incest, prostitution, promiscuity, abuse, sodomy, lesbianism, superstition, torture, orgies, - all described in prurient, gory detail, although the storyline is slight, the plot almost non-existent, and the characters ill-defined. If the book has any merit, apart from its brevity, it does bring home the appalling medieval attitudes towards so-called witches and clandestine Catholics, bracketing them together as agents of Satan. Don’t bother to buy it – but if you’ve nothing better to do, you can whip through it in about 3 hours, so not too much of your life is wasted!
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The Daylight Gate
The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson (Hardcover - 16 Aug 2012)
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