By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson


And the story fell out, stone by stone, shining and held, the way time is held in a diamond.

In The Gap of Time, a rich and jealous husband suspects his pregnant wife has been cheating on him with his best friend. When the baby girl is born, he banishes her and leaves his wife.  His daughter, adopted and raised by a poor family, is later reunited with her biological family. Sound familiar?

Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, a literary mashup that combines Shakespeare’s timeless characters and plots with some of today’s most acclaimed authors.  The Gap of Time is a retelling of A Winter’s Tale — soon to be published is Margaret Atwood’s The Tempest, Gillian Flynn’s Hamlet, and Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth, among others.

In Winterson’s version, the King becomes Leo, a banker in a Hugo Boss suit who gets laid off during the financial crisis of 2008.  Leo proudly declares that he is “the 1%”.  His best friend, Xeno, designs video games.  His wife, MiMi, is a French ballerina.  Their family drama plays out in modern day London.  After convincing himself that Xeno and MiMi are having an affair (and that MiMi’s unborn child must belong to Xeno), Leo installs security cameras to spy on them. After the baby girl is born, Leo confronts his wife, then hires a landscaper to whisk the baby to the American city of New Bohemia.

Things do not go as planned, of course — there is a car accident, a murder, and a baby girl left in a hospital BabyHatch (a small, warm drawer on the outside of the hospital to drop unwanted babies in).  Shep, a stranger still grieving the death of his wife, and his young son witnesses these events.  Seeing a man dead in the street and assuming he is the father, Shep takes the baby girl and raises her as his own.

Shakespeare scholars will enjoy seeing these classic tales redesigned with a fresh coat of modern paint.  Those who have never read the play will find a short overview at the beginning of the novel, but fear not — The Gap of Time can be read on its own without knowledge of its 400-year-old literary ancestor.  Jeanette Winterson, the author of ten novels, as well as her bestselling memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normalwrites in her own distinct style: she is not trying to rewrite Shakespeare, but apply his genius to today’s world.  Readers who are fans of Winterson’s works, Shakespeare’s plays, or novels with themes of adoption and family will want to read The Gap of Time, and watch for other books in this new series.


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