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The Daylight Gate

The Daylight Gate

3.9 13
by Jeanette Winterson

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“Mixing historical detail and dark horror, [Winterson] brilliantly brews a spellbinding take on the 1612 English witch trials.”—People

An instant bestseller in the UK, The Daylight Gate is Jeanette Winterson’s singular vision of a dark period of complicated morality, sex, and tragic plays for power in a time when


“Mixing historical detail and dark horror, [Winterson] brilliantly brews a spellbinding take on the 1612 English witch trials.”—People

An instant bestseller in the UK, The Daylight Gate is Jeanette Winterson’s singular vision of a dark period of complicated morality, sex, and tragic plays for power in a time when politics and religion were closely intertwined. On Good Friday, 1612, deep in the woods of Pendle Hill, a gathering of thirteen is interrupted by the local magistrate. Two of their coven have already been imprisoned for witchcraft and are awaiting trial, but those who remain are vouched for by the wealthy and respected Alice Nutter. Shrouded in mystery and gifted with eternally youthful beauty, Alice is established in Lancashire society and insulated by her fortune. As those accused of witchcraft retreat into darkness, Alice stands alone as a realm-crosser, a conjurer of powers that will either destroy her or set her free.

“Winterson’s haunting imagery and narrative immediacy captivate. An engrossing story that’s sure to leave you shivering.”—Elle

“This book is addictive, a page-turner…Winterson lays on the horror and the supernatural with gleeful abandon.”—LA Review of Books

“A daring historical novel…a portal in prose….Any reader who crosses over into this novel will remember vividly where he or she has traveled.”—NPR.com

“Delightfully gruesome.”—New York Times

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
To open The Daylight Gate is to be thrust into an England most Americans will have trouble believing ever existed. It’s a wild, superstitious place where the king (James I, Protestant son of the very Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots) has minions who prosecute (and, arguably, persecute) people suspected of witchcraft or Catholicism. Winterson starts with the historical record—the 1612 Lancashire Witch Trial really happened—and adds poetry, possibility, Shakespeare, Elizabethan Magus John Dee, a sexy priest on the run, a lifelong love between two women, and best of all, her version of real-life accused witch Alice Nutter. Using the fact that Nutter was from a different class than the group she was tried and executed with, Winterson creates a character straight out of fantasy. Alice is vividly beautiful, suspiciously young-looking, and while not a witch herself, acquainted with what witches call the “Left-Hand Path,” having worked with Dee on his alchemy and seen her female lover sell her soul to the devil, here called “the Dark Gentleman.” Disliked for her power and fearlessness—she rides astride and harbors suspected witches on her land—when the hunts for Catholics and witches converge, so too do her past and present. The book is short, violent (both torture and magic are depicted with full goriness), and absorbing. The language is simple and sometimes lovely, and to say that the book could have gone the extra mile and been a graphic novel is not to damn it, but to recognize the pleasure in its intensely visual qualities. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“More than a shivery treat… This harrowing novel, set in early-17th-century England, touches on nearly every aspect of witchcraft, both historical and imaginative. In little more than 200 pages, Jeanette Winterson depicts starving hags, gorgeous Renaissance orgies, alchemists searching for the secret of eternal life, horrific torture and even the Dark Gentleman himself. Much of the story, moreover, is true…. The Daylight Gate proffers a series of short, sharp shocks… the reader … is gripped by the realistic horrors and brutality Winterson describes… Winterson neatly shifts back and forth among various “realities” throughout… Yet she never tries to dazzle the reader, keeping her sentences sober, precise and solemnly beautiful as the novel moves along with a steady relentlessness…. utterly spellbinding.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“Mixing historical detail and dark horror, the author brilliantly brews a spellbinding take on the 1612 English witch trials.”—People

“A daring historical novel…a portal in prose, through which readers enter fully into the bloody, raucous England of the early 17th century….Any reader who crosses over into this novel will remember vividly where he or she has traveled — through the tumultuous years when English heroines and witches appeared interchangeable, and passion erupted at the gateway between love and despair.”—Alan Cheuse, NPR

"Winterson’s writing has an uncanny glow: Her pared-down, poetic prose serves as an artful yet unobtrusive foil to the quick, visceral cadence of a plot that walks a fine line between gothic horror and historical fiction, tempering the shock value of its sex and violence. From one gruesome development to the next, Winterson’s haunting imagery and narrative immediacy captivate...an engrossing story that’s sure to leave you shivering."—Catherine Straut, Elle

"Electrifying.... a nightmarish novella that burns like a hot coal."—Kirkus Reviews(starred)

"Absorbing...[there is] pleasure in its intensely visual qualities."—Publishers Weekly(starred)

"More than a re-imagining of a vanished moment. It is concerned with freedom, choice, and destiny, truth to emotion and to personal experience, the nature of conviction and belief, evil and, above all, good. . . . Winterson's intensely graphic descriptions of the witches' practices and their suffering create a fictional world of claustrophobic nightmarishness. . . . The Daylight Gate is angry, red in tooth and claw, bloody, suppurating, replete with an agony that is startlingly physical. . . . The novel is a tour de force of horror writing, but it never descends into shilling-shocker territory. It's an almost impossible balance for the writer to strike, but Winterson succeeds triumphantly. . . . Slips effortlessly between apparent realism and full-throttle fantasy, grotesquerie or burlesque. It makes for exhilarating if unsettling reading.”—The Saturday Times

“Sophisticated . . . Visceral . . . Utterly compulsive, thick with atmosphere and dread, but sharp intelligence too.”—The Telegraph

"Gripping . . . The narrative voice is irrefutable; this is old-fashioned storytelling, with a sermonic tone that commands and terrifies. . . . [Winterson] knows where true horror lies. Not in fantastical dimensions, but in the terrestrial world. Most grotesque and curdling are the visceral depictions of seventeenth century Britain—the squalor, inequality, and religious eugenics. . . . As well as being a gripping Gothic read, the book provides historical social commentary on the phenomenon of witchcraft and witchcraft persecution."—The Guardian

“Vigorous . . . Filled with Winterson’s characteristic intelligence and energy . . . This dark story with its fantastical trappings of magic and mysticism, its strong women and wild, Lancastrian setting is Winterson’s natural habitat and she maps it with relish.”—New Statesman

"Part history, part legend, part fairy tale, Winterson’s writing is vivacious and energetic. . . . Winterson has crafted a protagonist who is heroic and admirable but uncertain of her own destiny, a character who explores the emotional alchemy of ­female relationships. The Daylight Gate is a fast-paced, vivid novella that is every bit as dark, dangerous and sexually charged as one might expect from a storyteller of Winterson’s calibre."—Scotland on Sunday

"A story about the sacrifices people make for those they love . . . [Winterson]describes the area and the claustrophobic atmosphere beautifully. But her great skill as an author is most evident in the way she navigates past the cliches of the occult genre, while creating a novel of genuine horror. The Daylight Gate is an enthralling story unfussily told. I read it all in one sitting, only wishing there were more."—London Evening Standard

"Dazzling . . . Winterson is a deft storyteller and a writer of wonderful economy. . . . Amid the blood, mud, and violence, [it is also] intensely poetic. . . . One of the very few contemporary novels that I actually wished were longer."—Literary Review

"Winterson lavishly embroiders a tale rich in Gothic supernatural touches, but mainly accentuates the very real torment and degradation endured by [the] accused. . . . In a feverish climate, where fear of women and their sexuality often translated into rape and persecution, Winterson creates a deliciously dreadful tale that cleverly blurs the line between real and imagined horror."—Metro (4 stars)

"The beauty of the writing, exemplary in its pared-down simplicity . . . [is] so seductive that by the middle I was hooked."—The Independent

Library Journal
This short novel brings to life 17th-century England during the reign of James I at the Pendle witch trials in 1612. The presence of witchcraft is clear, and Satan appears briefly, yet the accusations against 13 women are highly politicized, much like the Salem witch trials of 1692 in America. The protagonist is Alice Nutter (a real-life victim who was recently honored with a statue in the Lancashire village of Roughlee, her home before she was taken to Lancaster Castle to be tried), who speaks up for the condemned and finds herself facing charges. As we learn more about Alice's history, we see how a great past love she experienced has and will cost her dearly. The story of Alice's affair with another woman is erotic and gripping, and the story's supernatural elements are intriguing. Alice is a complex character with a big heart, a woman who embraces her sexuality and stands up against the powerful. This is a suspenseful, disturbing novel about passion, injustice, sacrifice, and bravery in the face of hideous torture and execution. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Winterson, an eclectic British writer whose first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel. Those with a fascination for this dark era in history will be eager to read. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/13.]—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC
Kirkus Reviews
Witchcraft in 17th-century England: from the prolific British author (The Stone Gods, 2008, etc.), a nightmarish novella that burns like a hot coal. It was a notorious trial. The Lancashire Witches were tried and executed in 1612. England was jittery. The Protestant king, James I, was intent on hunting down witches and Catholics. The Gunpowder Plot had been a close call; all the Catholic plotters had fled north to Lancashire. Winterson uses the historical framework, grafting her inventions onto it. Entering the past with her is like walking through an open door. You are there. It is a world of rape and pillage. The most conspicuous witches are the Demdikes, a fearsome family of wretched indigents. The gentlewoman Alice Nutter, wealthy from inventing a dye, lets them live in a grim tower on her land. It is Good Friday. The Demdikes are planning a Black Mass. It is Alice's misfortune to be at the tower when the magistrate arrives. All of them, save Alice, are placed under guard. Alice does not believe in witchcraft, but she does believe in magic, which flickers throughout the narrative. Thirty years before, in London, she had known the alchemist John Dee and the beautiful Elizabeth Southern, one of her two great loves. Then Elizabeth sold her soul to the Dark Gentleman, but Alice stayed young, thanks to Dee's Elixir of Life. Now she is in danger, for her other great love, the Catholic plotter Southworth, has materialized at her house. The magistrate offers a deal: Give up Southworth and go free, or be tried as a witch with the others. Alice refuses, sealing her fate. As the tension mounts, Winterson weaves into her story a voodoo doll stuck with pins and an eerie meeting on haunted Pendle Hill between Alice and the dead John Dee. There will be torture and false testimony. An electrifying entertainment.

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Born in Manchester, England, and adopted into a family of Pentecostal evangelists, Jeanette Winterson is the author of seventeen books, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, and The Passion. She has won many prizes including the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, the John Llewllyn Rhys Prize, the E. M. Forster Award, and the Stonewall Award.

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The Daylight Gate 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is beautiful in its simplicity. The grime and filth of the time, both in atmosphere and action, are made real to the reader. Love seems the only lightness to emerge from this age. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For DayClan. Be realistic. No small turkeys or three rabbits. Just a vole or two mice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't waist your time or $$$.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shakily ds in crying. Papa! Momma! Were are you? She pants. She collapse on a patch of grass and cries. Lost cold and scred.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Starlight its me darkclaw i have been reincarnated from starclan and now i look like this! Please remember me!" He says sitting down next to starlight crying
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi starlight!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Starlight smiled, "Hello..." she meowed to the kit... (If you want me to...I will adopt you Foxkit...)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sits down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
~&Delta &star &starf