The Gap Of Time
by Jeanette Winterson
The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s “late plays.” It tells the story of a king whose jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter and the death of his beautiful wife. His daughter is found and brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of extraordinary events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited.
In The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale, we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other.
The Gap Of Time is Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Given a modern day setting it tells of Financier Leo Kaiser, and his deranged jealousy of his wife and his best friend. He torments himself with thoughts of the two together and manages to convince himself that the child she is carrying is not his.
A baby left in a BabyHatch in New Bohemia, America, is found by a man and his son and taken home to be cared for as their own.
Seventeen years later ruined lives collide with each other across time.
The Gap Of Time follows its original closely enough to be recognisable (you get a helpful synopsis of The Winter’s Tale at the beginning of the book for anyone who is not familiar with it), but Jeanette Winterson brings her own poetry to it and sets time as the main player into which forgiveness is the only answer.
“And the moment that looks like the rest is the one where hearts are broken or healed. and time that runs so steady and sure runs wild outside of the clocks. It takes so little time to change a lifetime and it takes a lifetime to understand the change.”
The character of Leo is unremittingly arrogant and self-centred to the point of destruction: not only his own life but those around him as well. Some will undoubtedly say that he deserves no forgiveness.
The lives of Leo’s wife, Mimi, a French singer, and his best friend Xeno, a wistful video game designer, swirl around in a vortex created by Leo, spiralling out of control.
But as ever when adults behave like children it is the children who also suffer. Milo and Perdita’s lives are changed beyond repair. There is no going back; or is there?
This is a beautifully written book on a theme of time that is faithful to its original yet an original in itself. for all the tragedy there are joyously funny moments. It’s an incredibly intelligent read but written in such an easy style that that you never want to stop turning the pages.
This is the first in a series of Shakespeare ‘covers’ designed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death next year. There are a variety of authors including Anne Tyler who has chosen The Taming Of The Shrew and Margaret Atwood using The Tempest and if they are half as good as this one I look forward to them.
Many thanks to Louise Court at Vintage for sending me a copy.