Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

review by Maryom

"Can a man be maimed by witchcraft? Can a severed head speak? Based on the most notorious of English witch-trials, this is a tale of magic, superstition, conscience and ruthless murder. It is set in a time when politics and religion were closely intertwined; when, following the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, every Catholic conspirator fled to a wild and untamed place far from the reach of London law. This is Lancashire. This is Pendle. This is witch country."

I discovered this book via a post on the Beauty Is A Sleeping Cat blog  about the level of violence portrayed in it and thought I'd read it as a) the Pendle Witches have always intrigued me and b) it's not possible to comment without having read a book. So I nipped off to the library and ordered a copy. I didn't find it too gruesome. I felt the violence was presented in a rather cold clinical way from the perpetrators' view not the victims' - which made it very cold, calculated and callous - but not really stomach churning.

My main reaction to this novel sadly was one of disappointment. From the back-cover blurb quoted above I'd expected an uncovering of socio-economic, political and religious issues leading to the victimisation of the so-called witches. This is what I've always believed to have been at the heart of these witch trials (in fact most such trials) but instead this is a story where magic DOES exist, where pins stuck into a rag doll really CAN harm a man and spiders can talk and offer advice.

I only realised as I started to write this review that the publisher was Hammer - of horror movie fame. If I'd noticed I'd maybe not have been surprised that the horror element was played up at the expense of dull reality.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Arrow Books in association with Hammer
Genre - Adult, Horror, Witchcraft, Historical Fiction

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