Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale Retold by Jeanette Winterson

 The Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale Retold (Hogarth Shakespeare) 

Synopsis: New Bohemia. America. A storm. A black man finds a white baby abandoned in the night. He gathers her up - light as a star - and decides to take her home. 

London. England. After the financial crash. Leo Kaiser knows how to make money but he doesn't know how to manage the jealousy he feels towards his best friend and his wife. Is his newborn baby even his?

New Bohemia. Seventeen years later. A boy and a girl are falling in love but there's a lot they don't know about who they are and where they come from. 

Jeanette Winterson's cover version of The Winter's Tale vibrates with echoes of the original, but tells a contemporary story where Time itself is a player in a game of high stakes that will either end in tragedy or forgiveness. It shows us that however far we have been separated, whatever is lost shall be found. 

Date Published: October 6, 2015
Published By: Knopf Canada
Number of Pages: 288
Rating: 4/5

This book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Initiative , where contemporary authors write modern retellings of Shakespeare's plays. 

The Winter's Tale is considered one of Shakespeare's 'late' plays and not one of his most celebrated. I had never even really heard about it until I learned about the Hogarth Shakespeare Initiative and decided to read the play before reading The Gap of Time. It's an odd little play - it features jealous tyrant kings, and statues coming to life, and someone gets eaten by a bear (which is awesome.) It feels like a fairy tale. It's very entertaining and deserves to be read (and performed) more widely - but I was definitely skeptical about a modern retelling - how would it work?

Jeanette Winterson did a brilliant job of retelling The Winter's Tale. She managed to devise modern day counterparts for all of the main characters - Leontes, the jealous tyrant king, becomes a jealous, high-strung businessman. Autolycus, the con man becomes Autolycus the used car dealer. The bear becomes two thugs. 

It was so much fun to read The Gap of Time and see all of the references to The Winter's Tale - not just the characters and the structure of the plot but the lines that were slightly reworked and sprinkled throughout the story. Jeanette Winterson writes beautifully and there were sentences in this book that took my breath away, like this one:

'I discover that grief means living with someone who is not there.' p.19

I live for sentences like that.

The question is: can you read The Gap of Time without reading The Winter's Tale first? The answer is: sure. But I don't recommend it. Without reading the play first, you'll be missing out on the full richness of the story  - like seeing a movie without reading the book that it's based on. 

I highly enjoyed this first installment of the Hogarth Shakespeare Initiative and can't wait to read all of the future retellings. 


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