Reviews: Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale

Where There’s A Will: Shakespeare Remixed In ‘The Gap Of Time’

By NPR Staff for NPR, 4 October 2015

We often feature musicians who make cover albums — their versions of songs made popular by others. Now comes a project where writers — some of the most acclaimed of our time — cover Shakepeare’s [sic] works, retelling the Bard in their own words. Jeanette Winterson’s new novel, The Gap of Time, is a re-imagining of The Winter’s Tale, and it’s the first book in the series to be published.

Winterson tells NPR’s Rachel Martin that the project is perfect for Shakespeare, who didn’t invent a lot of his own plots, “and just used to take apart other people’s work and bolt it back together in his own image, you know, he’d think this was exactly the right way to deal with the text.”

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The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson – book review: Novel way to bring back the Bard … never mind the gap

By Holly Williams for The Independent, 4 October 2015

Ahead of next year’s 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, Hogarth Press is releasing a series of novels based on his plays. Gillian Flynn tackles Hamlet, Howard Jacobson does The Merchant of Venice, but first comes Jeanette Winterson’s “cover version” of The Winter’s Tale. Her title, The Gap of Time, is taken from the play’s closing lines where, after 16 years, a family is reunited; there’s a plea for each to tell their story, to “answer to his part/ Perform’d in this wide gap of time since first/ We were dissever’d.”

It’s one of many smart choices Winterson makes – for she fulfils this demand herself, offering a new, modern take on Shakespeare’s play.

We open with a thriller-like present tense sequence, lifted from the end of Act III, where the baby, Perdita, is rescued after Tony (Antigonus in the original) makes his famous exit – not pursued by a bear here, but by gangsters after her suitcase full of cash.

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Bohemian rhapsody: Jeanette Winterson’s “cover version” of The Winter’s Tale

Rowan Williams for the New Statesman, 4 October 2015

espeare – that magpie plunderer of other people’s plots and characters – would undoubtedly have approved. The Hogarth Shakespeare project invites prominent contemporary writers to rework his plays in novelistic form and this is Jeanette Winterson’s reimagining of The Winter’s Tale. Like the original, it shuttles disturbingly between worlds, cultures and emotional registers. It has never been an easy play, for all its apparent focus on reconciliation, and Winterson handles the gear-changes with skill, moving between the offices of Sicilia, a London-based asset-stripping company, and New Bohemia, a New Orleans-like American urban landscape (with interludes in both a virtual and a real Paris).

Her Leontes is a hedge-fund speculator, Polixenes a visionary designer of screen games (the presence of this world echoes the unsettling semi-magic of Shakespeare’s plot). They have a brief and uncomfortable history as teenage lovers at school and Polixenes – Xeno – has also slept with MiMi (Hermione), the French-American singer who eventually marries Leo.

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The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson review – an elegant retelling of Shakespeare

By Sarah Crown for The Guardian, 7 October 2015

ext year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare – following, so the story goes, “a merry meeting” with Ben Jonson during which he “drank too hard”. Four centuries later, the world remains in thrall; around the globe, commemorations are already under way. With the launch of the Hogarth Shakespeare, then, Vintage imprint Hogarth Press is entering a crowded market, but there is no chance of it getting lost in the scrum. Back in 2013 the publisher announced it had commissioned a range of A-list writers (Margaret AtwoodAnne Tyler and Howard Jacobson, among others) to “reimagine Shakespeare’s plays for a 21st-century audience”. Their remit was to move the plays from stage to page; to turn them into novels that would be “true to the spirit” of the originals but which, beyond that, could travel wherever they pleased. Rewriting Shakespeare: for sheer, straight-up chutzpah, it doesn’t get bigger than that.

Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time is the first in the series, and her position at the front of the pack leaves her peculiarly exposed. While those who come after will be judged at least in part against each other, for Winterson, at this point, it’s her words against Shakespeare’s. Judiciously, she soft-pedals the comparison by positioning her novel as a response rather than a revision; her task was made easier, too, by the fact that, when it came to the question of which play she would tackle, she was absolutely clear in her mind. “All of us have talismanic texts that we have carried around, and that carry us around,” she has said. “I have worked with The Winter’s Tale in many disguises for many years … And I love cover versions.”

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In ‘Gap Of Time,’ Shakespeare Is Updated, But Not Upstaged

By Annalise Quinn for NPR, 9 October 2015

Terrible jealousy, an oracle, a lost child, a living statue, miraculous redemption: The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s most mythic and magic plays. It is a story, as the characters like to say as strange occurrence follows strange occurrence, “like an old tale.”

Even then it was an old tale, one Shakespeare lifted from Robert Greene’s 16th century prose work Pandosto. As with so many of Shakespeare’s stories, his play is itself just one link in a line of mutations and adaptations and experiments with an older story. Now Jeanette Winterson, continuing a long tradition of riffing on these stories, has adapted Shakespeare’s play into a new novel, The Gap of Time, the first in a series of Shakespeare covers by the publisher Hogarth; other plays will be retold by other writers, including Edward St Aubyn, Margaret Atwood and Howard Jacobson. The Winter’s Tale, Winterson writes in an authorial aside, “has been a private text for me for more that thirty years.” Like the play’s Perdita, she was adopted: “It’s a play about a foundling. And I am.”

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