Shakespeare is arguably one of the greatest literary figures of all time. In saying this, who could ever retell his stories with, at the very least, an equal caliber? Jeanette Winterson does just this in her latest novel The Gap of Time.
Based on William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, The Gap of Time picks up all of the characters in the play and sets them down in the modern day to explore both the themes presented in the original and more. Winterson takes the gap of time that occurs in the original play of some sixteen years, and extrapolates on the significance, terror, and beauty of time and its passage.
The story is one of an abandoned child lost and found. It is a story of a power-hungry and jealous father who must come to terms with the limits of his ego in order to find happiness. It is a story of two children grown to adolescence: young lovers connected in a way that they could never dream of. It is a story of old and new love, of the importance of understanding your own self-worth and fighting for the truth, even when it’s hard to hear. Most of all, it is a story of redemption, forgiveness, and renewal.
The poetical appeal of Shakespeare’s language is retained and modernized in The Gap of Time, and most especially through Winterson’s lush descriptions of time itself. Time is something that “holds the world still” that follows “you like a shadow,” and sometimes “[t]his is time. You are here. This caught moment opening into a lifetime.” What is perhaps the most magical and insightful aspect of The Gap of Time is Winterson’s treatment of time as a dynamic and fluid player in all our lives. Instead of viewing time from a single perspective, Winterson drives at it from all possible vantage points, and forces the reader to inquire into the many significances that time brings to life.
Though nearly all of the characters in The Gap of Time are much more accessible than Shakespeare’s in The Winter’s Tale, Winterson stays trues to the motivation behind most while also intermixing even more threads of love, lust, gender, sexuality, and humanity.
The Gap of Time is an absolute must read whether you are familiar with The Winter’s Tale or not. While coming to the novel with The Winter’s Tale as a background proves for a more thorough and insightful read, Winterson gives a full recap of the play in the book’s beginning, and the novel itself can stand alone just as strongly.
Published by Hogarth in June of 2016, The Gap of Time is available for purchase at your local bookstore.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.