Queer Book Club: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

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The Gap of Time is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series modern Shakespeare rewrites. This story is a retelling of The Winter’s Tale.

As with the original, the story jumps about in time and geography, from schoolboy Leo and Xeno falling in love, to their adult lives where Xeno woos MiMi on Leo’s behalf. Leo and MiMi have a child, but Leo’s jealousy results in the baby Perdita being cast out. Perdita grows up with Shep and Clo in the US, happy and loved but oblivious to her true roots.

I love the way that Winterson uses Leo’s character to obliterate the ideal alpha male trope: he’s dominating, controlling, emotionally childish, violent, selfish, needy and thoroughly unpleasant. The only person who may have seen a better side of Leo is Xeno when they were schoolboys. Even MiMi comes to marry him because she sees him through Xeno’s eyes. But their messy triangle results in tragedy, and Winterson pulls no punches in how this plays out. Leo is never really forgiven for his violence and cruelty. Although the next generation find resolution, Leo as an individual carries the guilt of what he does to the end.

I also enjoy how Winterson is so brave and adventurous in the way she tells the story. She jumps about in style and voice to really get the emotion and drama across. There’s no timidity in the style or technique, which made it fun to read from a writing point of view.

There were a couple of bits that fell flat for me (for example, towards the end there’s a bit where a trans woman appears to be the punch line of a joke, though it was such a throwaway line, I’m not completely sure what Winterson intended). But those were few and far between.

Even though I knew the basic story, I still found myself interested to see how it played out.

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