The Gap Of Time by Jeanette Winterson is one of the books from the Hogarth Shakespeare project in which some of Shakespeare’s works are retold by acclaimed, bestselling novelists. The aim of this project is to continue to introduce the work of Shakespeare to new audiences and to retell the classic stories with a contemporary voice. The Gap Of Time is a retelling of The Winter’s Tale.
‘The cars going by, the men and women on the streets. All the hope and the heartbreak. Yes, that is what they see. And though the earth is lost, she will be found.
Whatever is lost will be found’
I must admit I was a little apprehensive about reading this book as I was not familiar with the original play. However, a brief overview of the characters and plot is provided which I found helpful and was sufficient information to be able to see how the characters and events translate to a modern setting. The novel maps itself to the original play in terms of plot whilst creating contemporary characters – Leontes becomes Leo, a man with an abundance of wealth and power who is quite a loathsome character. He is convinced that his wife, a singer named MiMi (originally Hermione) is being unfaithful to him and is jealous of the bond between MiMi and his childhood friend Xeno (Polixenes) who in this adaptation is a computer games designer. His emotions have disastrous consequences for his family life, and when his daughter Perdita is born, he wants nothing to do with her…
‘Sometimes it doesn’t matter that there was any time before this time. Sometimes it doesn’t matter that its night or day or now or then. Sometimes where you are is enough. It’s not that time stops or that it hasn’t started. This is time. You are here. This caught moment opening into a lifetime.’
Despite knowing the plot from the start I found the book to be an enjoyable read that kept me interested and I liked looking out for the little plot details and characters along the way. Without the original I would say it can be enjoyed as a story of its own but it certainly helps to have knowledge of the original play. Years after her abandonment we see how Perdita is adapting to life with an adoptive family and follow her quest to find out who she really is and who her parents are. Along the way I was impressed with Winterson’s writing and there were some clever little details and references which I enjoyed.
‘And the story fell out stone by stone, shining and held, the way time is held in a diamond, the way the light is held in each stone.’
I enjoyed The Gap Of Time and found it to be an interesting cover version of the famous play. I am pleased to have picked it up and in doing so I discovered a new story, showing how Shakespeare’s writing is still significant today and how centuries later his characters can find a new voice and a new audience. I would certainly be interested in reading some of the other books in this series.