The Daylight Gate

Jeanette Winterson

The Daylight Gate

GOOD FRIDAY, 1612. Pendle Hill, Lancashire. A mysterious gathering of thirteen people is interrupted by local magistrate, Roger Nowell. Is this a witches' Sabbat? Two notorious Lancashire witches are already in Lancaster Castle waiting trial. Why is the beautiful and wealthy Alice Nutter defending them? And why is she among the group of thirteen on Pendle Hill? Elsewhere, a starved, abused child lurks. And a Jesuit priest and former Gunpowder plotter, recently returned from France, is widely rumoured to be heading for Lancashire. But who will offer him sanctuary? And how quickly can he be caught? This is the reign of James I, a Protestant King with an obsession: to rid his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price ... 3.8 out of 5 based on 11 reviews
The Daylight Gate

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction, Horror & Ghost Stories
Format Hardcover
Pages 208
RRP
Date of Publication August 2012
ISBN 978-0099561859
Publisher Hammer
 

GOOD FRIDAY, 1612. Pendle Hill, Lancashire. A mysterious gathering of thirteen people is interrupted by local magistrate, Roger Nowell. Is this a witches' Sabbat? Two notorious Lancashire witches are already in Lancaster Castle waiting trial. Why is the beautiful and wealthy Alice Nutter defending them? And why is she among the group of thirteen on Pendle Hill? Elsewhere, a starved, abused child lurks. And a Jesuit priest and former Gunpowder plotter, recently returned from France, is widely rumoured to be heading for Lancashire. But who will offer him sanctuary? And how quickly can he be caught? This is the reign of James I, a Protestant King with an obsession: to rid his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price ...

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Reviews

The Literary Review

Christina Appleyard

Winterson does all that any Hammer reader would want – and probably too much for more squeamish types – as well as writing a novel of subtlety and depth. It is also, amid the blood, mud and violence, intensely poetic. The imagery of the wild land with its dark towers and possessed creatures – animal and human – underpins a story about love and death and the possibility of unseen worlds. It is one of the very few contemporary novels that I actually wished were longer.

01/08/2012

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The Times

Matthew Dennison

The Daylight Gate is angry, red in tooth and claw, bloody, suppurating, replete with an agony that is startlingly physical, not mental or emotional. The novel is a tour de force of horror writing — ultimately its details of surpassing revoltingness acquire a faux-quotidian quality — but it never descends into shilling-shocker territory. It is an almost impossible balance for the writer to strike, but Winterson succeeds triumphantly.

04/08/2012

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The Guardian

Sarah Hall

The usual witchy tropes are present – warts, cauldrons, familiars – but they are upgraded, made suitable and sensible. If a toadstool features it's because Old Demdike knows which ones growing in prison are edible. Enchanted mirrors are by-products of mercury experimentation in laboratories. To avoid clichéd associations would be coy. Winterson would rather take these motifs on, activate and invigorate them. And she knows where true horror lies. Not in fantastical dimensions, but in the terrestrial world. Most grotesque and curdling are the visceral depictions of early 17th-century Britain – the squalor, inequality and religious eugenics.

16/08/2012

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The Daily Mail

John Harding

It’s not a tale for the fainthearted. The lawlessness of the times is reflected in sexual abuse and explicit details of torture, making it an often harrowing read before the heroine’s final triumphant transformation. It’s told with the author’s usual aplomb and should appeal to her many fans.

03/08/2012

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The Evening Standard

Rosamund Urwin

The Daylight Gate is a bleak book about a world where sadism reigns; Winterson’s staccato sentences cover rape, incest and torture. Graves are robbed, a tongue is bitten off, there’s more blood in these 194 pages than you’ll find in many war films. And the horrors keep mounting: teeth fall from the sky, there’s a wormy severed head and a room where rats eat one another. But there is also tenderness buried deep here: it is also a story about the sacrifices people make for those they love, whether it is the Jesuit priest and Gunpowder plotter Christopher Southworth who returns to Lancashire after his sister is arrested, or Nutter herself. There are even a couple of lighter moments, one stemming from a cameo role from William Shakespeare.

09/08/2012

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The Independent

Diane Purkiss

Winterson is always a strong and bitter flavour, Seville oranges. By now most intelligent readers will know if they like the taste or not. If you loved her other novels, you will adore this … What undermines this subtlety is that she also wants to give the witches real magical capabilities and a real Devil for their dealings ... What holds attention throughout the novella, however, is the beauty of the writing, exemplary in its pared-down simplicity. It's so seductive that by the middle I was hooked.

11/08/2012

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The Observer

Stephanie Merritt

Winterson is at her best here when she is dealing with real horrors, whether the disease and depredations of poverty and prison or the ingenious ways that men have devised to torture one another. The landscape she describes is bleak and atmospheric, inviting an affinity with dark powers. But the social realism sits uneasily alongside the supernatural elements: a severed head that speaks, or the appearances of the mysterious Dark Gentleman, to whom Alice is supposed to be a sacrifice.

12/08/2012

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The New Statesman

Jane Shilling

Vigorous as it is, and filled with Winterson’s characteristic intel­ligence and energy, something about the writing feels slightly out of true. There is a certain two-dimensional or second-hand quality to Alice’s encounters with the real figures of Nowell and Shakespeare ... This quality becomes alarmingly more pronounced in the scenes involving the Chattox and Demdike rude mechanicals. There is an unpleasantly schematic rape scene early on and later a strenuously revolting chapter in which Elizabeth Device prepares a spell with a recently disinterred skull and an assortment of other body parts: “Mouldheels! Sew the tongue into this head. The teeth are going into the pot!”

08/08/2012

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The Spectator

Claudia Fitzherbert

he power of the novel lies in Winterson’s take on the witches themselves, who are very far from the free-thinking wise women of old-fashioned feminist revisions. The Pendle witch trials have always challenged the witchcraze = misogygny version because the 12 inconveniently included two men. Winterson presents us instead with a snarling, cursing, incest-riven coven of desperate low-lifers who think nothing of interfering every witch way with a weirdly loitering corpse-robbing nine-year-old girl who turns key witness ... The Daylight Gate offers an unexpectedly reactionary vision in which the educated are civilised, while the have-nots are hell.

18/08/2012

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The Daily Express

Charlotte Heathcote

Winterson has some fun with the facts, freely injecting fanciful details but without enough conviction. So a rather bland William Shakespeare pops up speaking in jarringly flat prose (“Do you think a stone statue can come to life? I have used that device in a play I am still revising called The Winter’s Tale.”) … this nightmarish account could have had a greater impact if it had been refined in some places and developed in others.

19/08/2012

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The Sunday Times

David Grylls

At its core is a lesbian love affair between two strong women who (through devilish pacts) lose each other but remain united. But although the book reprises many of Winterson’s key themes (seeking identity, learning to love, dissolving boundaries, defying authority), it largely lacks her trademark black humour. Almost the only tongue-in-cheek stuff here is the bitten-off tongue sewn into a severed head (then popped into a cauldron by the witches). A pity — for without the author’s flickering irony, her potpourri of horrific ingredients fails to cast much of a spell.

12/08/2012

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