The Daylight Gate

21st Century
This edition printed in:

A tortoiseshell cat stretches a paw in front of The Daylight Gate and the statue of a black cat.

Picking Out the Pumpkins

We decided to get to the pumpkins today despite the crowds of Thanksgiving shoppers trying to get last-minute supplies. Going to the local farm we go to every year involves a lovely drive through the countryside and a walk through a yard full of interesting and compelling pumpkins. We take our time and pick out the most interesting few, as well as the one that I think is most sincere.

The Daylight Gate by Jeannette Winterson has a silver-grey cover with silhouettes of leaf-bare trees and crows.

This year I really needed the break from work and from worrying about work, so I was thrilled when the proprietor offered to let us walk through their spooky woods full of decorations. Its those moments that I want to savour. Walking through crunchy leaves, looking at scary carnival and sinister wedding dioramas with my lovely spouse holding my hand. The heat has finally faded and the chill is finally in the air.

Also? At the farm there were no crowds. Just the birds and the pumpkins. It’s one of the things I love most about shopping local around here. That there’s room to breathe and no one expects you to rush. There are times when I miss the vibrant rush of the city, but these days I’m really craving some calm.

A calico tabby sits primly on an orange couch beside a silver-grey book and a black cat statue.

A Bit of a Departure

Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate is a bit of a departure for this blog. First of all, it was published just over ten years ago — so we cannot be sure it will stand the test of time. Nor, if I’m being honest, do I really think it will. However, Winterson has written several books that are and will be classics for ages to come including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and Sexing the Cherry. So, she is definitely a classic writer.

Also the novel was published by the Hammer, who you may recognize as the premiere horror film studio whose heyday was the late 1950s and 1960s and who produced classics like Dracula starring Christopher Lee from 1958, and The Mummy starring Peter Cushing from 1959, as well as a cycle of Frankenstein films also starring Peter Cushing.

So this novel is really an intersection of two goliaths of classic film and classic literature, and therefore I decided to both read it and to review it, despite it being a bit more recent.

A statue of black cat in a witch hat sits beside a silver-grey book.

The Good

There’s something about Winterson’s style that’s really compelling. She provides just the right amount of description and writes with a stark phrasing that makes an impact without strangling the reader with any ounce of unnecessary detail. Her narratives move quickly and keep the reader engaged even if some of the atmosphere is left to the imagination. Winterson strikes a balance that is very difficult to get right and she deserves every bit of credit for that.

The Daylight Gate is the story of Alice Nutter, a self-made woman that discovers a dye that makes her fortune. However, she also falls in with witchcraft and friends that entangled in forces far beyond what she is used to dealing with and that could mean the end of her wealth, her influence, and even her life. It definitely has all the elements of a story for a dark and stormy night and you can easily finish the entire novel in one sitting or at most two. It’s an advantage when I’m trying to squeeze the maximum number of spooky books into the dark rainy nights of the season.

A calico tabby looks up and into a light with wide, green eyes. Behind her is a copy of Winterson's The Daylight Gate.

The Bad

I think the most obvious issue the novel has is that, while it is set in seventeenth century, it lacks historical accuracy. Sometimes this lack of accuracy is also quite glaring. You’ll have to let go of the urge to nitpick when you pick up this book, or else you’re in for a headache.

The other glaring issue is that Winterson is clearly and obviously not comfortable writing sex scenes — and yet the novel is chock full of them. Chock. Full. In fact, there are far too many. I suppose I should have expected that kind of content from Hammer since their films feature quite a bit of sexuality. However, I was also expecting Hammer to show at least some restraint. Enough that they wouldn’t overload a slim book with just sex scene after sex scene.

Even if Winterson were good at writing them, it would still be too much. As it stands, it’s like reading some kind of cross between VCR instructions and some kind of textbook. It’s not good, and ultimately? The narrative maybe only required one.

A statue of a black cat in a witch hat sits beside a grey book, The Daylight Gate.

Thanksgiving Prep

We picked up the ham and the last of the groceries. We braved the crowds. It’s finally time for the final turkey day preparations! We don’t do anything fancy, but we try to make sure the cleaning is done and the sitting room is aired out before the meal. My lovely spouse also insists on getting flowers for the table and getting out the few table linens we have.

Way back when we were still in the big city, we made a kind of turkey tail that we could fan out behind a sleeping Bubastis in order to take a very hilarious picture. However, the tail got lost in the move and Bubastis is a much svelter version of herself. So she doesn’t exactly conjure the image of the overstuffed bird she once did. That’s now Rusalka’s job.

A tortoiseshell cat stretches a paw in front of a grey book and the statue of a black cat

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