[589]: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

25776011 The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
Knofp Canada | Hardcover, 288 pp.
October 6th, 2015
Adult Fiction | Retelling
The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s “late plays”. It tells the story of Leontes, King of Sicily, whose insane jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter, Perdita, from the kingdom and then the death of his beautiful wife, Hermione. Perdita is brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of miraculous events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited.

In Jeanette Winterson’s retelling we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crash, to a storm-ravaged city in the US called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, video games and the elliptical nature of time. It tells in a hyper-modern way, full of energy and beauty, of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and love, redemption and a lost child on the other.

If you’re not familiar with Hogarth Shakespeare (as I was before I read this book), it is a project that commissioned some prolific authors to rewrite Shakespeare’s plays in a way that will appeal to modern readers. It is a massive undertaking for two reasons: one, they’re to rewrite the plays into novels, and two, consider the author of the original works.


The first book in this series is a retelling of The Winter’s Tale. In the original work, it tells the story of King Leontes, his pregnant wife Hermoine, and King Polixenes. King Leontes, in a jealous fit, accused his wife and Polixenes of having an affair. But of course, the two weren’t having an affair, and the baby was his. In a series of event, Leontes will lose his wife, their son, and the baby. King Leontes exiled the baby to a faraway land never to be seen again.

The child was found by a shepherd and his simple-minded son. Years passed, Perdita grew up to be a beautiful woman. Enter Florizel, son of King Polixenes. While pretending to be a commoner, Florizel fell in love with Perdita. And as they grew closer, the journey they would both embark will take them back to how it all started.


We all know Bill Shakespeare’s writing was not made for the masses. I’ve always found it difficult to understand even watching it in its film version. As a reader, I know how important it is to have some knowledge of his works. Because missing out on Shakespeare is almost an unforgivable sin. Winterson revamped the story to make it more palatable to plebian readers such as I. For one the story was set in the modern times. Leo [Leontes] and Xeno [Polixenes] are wealthy tech executives who dabbled in gaming and real estate. MiMi [Hermoine] is a French singer in Paris. There is also an arch of a gay relationship between Leo and Xeno during their teen years. Now, I’m not familiar with the original work, so I don’t know whether or not this was even implied. Xeno, however, never outgrew that love. In fact, he was in love with both Leo and MiMi.

The interesting part of this story is how each of their pasts would come to a head. And this is all spear-headed by the relationship between Perdita (the missing baby), and Zel (Florizel). At one point, Perdita even thought that they were siblings. And knowing that this was a Shakespeare work, I couldn’t put it past him. So I had to go back and check the original work to make sure that it was nothing but confusion.

I also enjoyed Perdita’s relationship with her adopted family. It was obvious to Perdita that they were not her biological family because they were Blacks and she was White. But their relationship was one of the sincerest, loveliest familial dynamics I’ve ever read in a while. Shep considered Perdita a blessing in their life even though the circumstances of how she came to them wasn’t all that ideal.


I’m so excited to read the rest of the books in this series. Margaret Atwood had signed on to do The Tempest. Anne Tyler is doing The Taming of the Shrew – which is probably a favourite of mine all thanks to 10 Things I Hate About You. I’ve never been more thankful for the powers that be that instigated this project. Because now I have a chance to get to know Shakespeare’s works in such a way that I can easily understand.


  • This. Is. Awesome! I wasn’t aware of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, so thank you for writing about it. I do love me some Shakespeare, so I’m excited to check out all of the books published for this project.

  • I’ve read some Shakespeare, but probably not nearly as much as I should have. Glad to see you enjoyed this retelling.

  • I feel really bad since I’ve never read this before BUT on the bright side, I’ve been reading A FREAKIN’ BUTT LOAD of Shakespeare for my English class recently, so.. so that has to count for something, right?? Teehee

  • Ooh, well this sounds really interesting. I do at times struggle with ye’olde writing style and the ways of writers past, but I think that I can get by (and I tend to be able to) if I’m passionate about the story. Romeo and Juliet is the only Shakespeare I’ve read, I believe, and I just was carried by my personal interest, and it’s the same with a lot of older classics. How I managed to get through Jane Eyre, which I loathed with a passion (although perhaps the answer is there: that passion) is beyond me, though.
    I’ll definitely keep an eye out for your reviews of the other books in this new series, although I don’t think this one sounds like it’d be for me. Glad you enjoyed it, lovely. xx

  • Interesting concept. I haven’t read Shakespeare since college, when I did a paper on Hamlet. Happy that you loved this!

  • Oh wow oh wow, I hadn’t heard of this Shakespearean re-write vibe, but it sounds awesome! We studied a Winters Tale in third year uni – it’s always helpful to have the background of the original play. Will definitely be checking this out – glad it gets your stamp of approval!

  • I haven’t heard of this one or The Winter’s Tale but I’m loving that cover. It sounds like you found some great aspects to enjoy out of this one so I might check it out!

  • Perdita and the relationship with the adoptive family sounds fascinating in this one.

  • wait this is a William Shakespeare retelling? oh wow, that is awesome!

  • This is such a neat way to introduce (or, re-introduce) us to Shakespeare 🙂 I’m not a huge fan of his plays, but did have to study a couple at school. My favourite is Much Ado About Nothing but The Winter’s Tale is not one I am familiar with. I think I’ll have to check this out for sure 🙂

  • Nicole Hewitt

    I actually love Shakespeare – I was a theatre major in college and Shakespeare was my favorite – but The Winter’s Tale is one I’m not all that familiar with. I think this is a fantastic way to expose more people to the Bard. If people read the book AND the play, all the better! I’ll have to check these out!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • That looks like such a pretty cover 😀 Gorgeous review Joy. <3 So glad you liked this one. It seems pretty awesome 🙂

  • Very cool they’re bringing some of these classics to a broader range of readers!! I’m so curious about this one – must keep my eyes out for it: “Margaret Atwood had signed on to do The Tempest.”

  • Ohmy.. Forgive me for I have not read anything by Shakespeare, haha. I always tell myself that I’ll go around his works one of these days (and it seems like those days are yet to come). I kind of like the sound of this but I think that it’s more interesting if I’ve read Shakespeare’s work first.

  • Oh yesss where was this book while I was at school? It would definitely be interesting seeing how they are rewritten, I bet they are easier to read that way.

  • RO

    Ah…I remember having to read it in high school and falling in love with those tales. These sound like keepers for sure! Hugs…

  • shootingstarsmag

    It wasn’t until college that I really started to love Shakespeare; I had a couple professors that made it easier and more fun to read his works. I love this idea though, and I’m happy to hear this one was well done. I’ve never read the original play, but ah well…


  • This is new to me, but it sounds like a great read Joy. I like that Perdita has a good relationship with her adopted family… and managed to find love!

  • I haven’t heard of this. I’ve read a few Shakespeare, but not a lot, just what I had to do in school. I think I did Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar and Hamlet.

  • Jazmen

    I really dig the idea of this. I might check this one out. Nice review, Joy!

  • I haven’t heard of this before today. this is the second book that’s doing Shakespeare though. I’m sensing a trend, I think we’ll be seeing more adaptations next year.

  • What a cool concept! I hated having to read Shakespeare in school (though I appreciate it a bit more now), so this could be hugely helpful. Great review!

  • Wow, I really want to read this. That’s cool how authors are doing this. And yeah, 10 Things I Hate About You is what turned me on to Taming of the Shrew when I was younger. So I’m curious about these.

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I didn’t know about this project at all though I think Shakespeare’s plays revamped as novels is going to be such a brilliant execution. I’ve always read Shakespeare’s plays and finally saw one performed this weekend and it really made me realize that reading them are just not the way to go. It’s so much better performed so I think a novelized version would be really successful. Thanks for putting this on my radar, Joy! I haven’t read Winter’s Tale so I’ll have to try this one out!

  • What an awesome concept! I love the classics, but have always really struggled to understand Shakespeare too. Not only the dialect, but he has these underlying messages throughout that sometimes miss the mark in modern day. These sound absolutely brilliant! I love something out of the ordinary and can’t wait to grab a copy. I hope they create the series with similar covers, they’d be wonderful to collect as well. Awesome review Joy, really enjoyed it <3 <3

  • kindlemom1

    I haven’t read these before with but I love that they were done so well! I might have to pick this up.

  • I haven’t read this Shakespeare before, but I do like my Shakespeare 😉 I think the idea of converting them to modern novels is such a brilliant idea because I know that a lot more people might be so inclined to go and try the plays once they have read the modern novel. And I am glad to know that you liked the conversion and that it made a good book. I want to try one of these type of ones as well!

  • Jenny @ Supernatural Snark

    I love this idea Joy! I will admit to having the HARDEST time understanding Shakespeare, I would always have to read the Cliffs Notes just to understand what I’d just read. I’m not great at trying to decipher meaning when I’m reading, it’s why I fail at poetry. Maybe I’m too literal. JUST SAY WHAT YOU MEAN! I think I’d really enjoy these authors takes on the Bard though:)

  • Nick(Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite

    I hadn’t heard of this literary project,but how exciting! I’m with you, Shakespeare’s works could be really difficult at times. I think applying them to a modern setting could be useful to younger readers too. I need to look this one up, but thanks for bringing it to my attention, Joy!

  • This… is SO COOL! In college I was pretty much an English major (3 credits to go) and our program was exclusively English lit — just works originally written in English. So a huge focus was on Shakespeare. I also got to see some amazing productions of Shakespeare plays because of my university’s bountiful budget. So my excitement for this initiative is really high! Thanks so much for alerting me to it! I cannot wait for… Midsummer Night’s Dream (hilarious and atmospheric), Merchant of Venice (heart-wrenching with modern historical context) and King Lear (huge emotion and crashing family dynamics.)

  • I first heard about The Winter’s Tale while reading The Marvels by Brian Selznick, and the story was so intriguing. I think it’s definitely more interesting than one of his more well-known works for sure. Like you, I just can’t grasp Shakespeare easily. It’s digestable if you have some background knowledge on the story, but when you go into it blank, then it’s so hard to grasp. I think this concept for rewriting Shakespeare’s stories for us plebs is such a great idea! I can’t wait to check it out 😀

  • I’d read it for Winterson, I like her

  • Melliane

    It’s an interesting idea to do books like that, I’m quite curious to see how the others will be