She felt she was in danger. She would have to use what methods she could to save herself. It would not be the first time.
Jeanette Winterson + a gothic novella about witches in 17th century England = a combination I just couldn't resist. :)
The Daylight Gate takes place during the reign of James I, a king obsessed with ridding his kingdom of two evils: Catholics and witches. The novella is based on the so-called Pendle witch trials.
Alice Nutter is a wealthy, independent and influential noblewoman who owns Malkin Tower on Pendle Hill, where witches are said to gather. On Good Friday, the local authorities interrupt a gathering of thirteen people. Twelve of them are poor peasants, led by Old Demdike, a woman who is said to have sold her soul to the devil. But Alice Nutter is also present and accusations are made against her. But what is her connection to Old Demdike and the others, and why does she choose to defend them against the magistrate?
This is a tale that doesn't question the existence of magic: the supernatural and paranormal are present throughout the story. People transform into animals, teeth rain from the sky, a severed head speaks... But it is not the supernatural elements of the book that the most gruesome and terrifying; it is the ordinary, everyday life of the poor, accused and doomed individuals in the story. Winterson describes extreme poverty, starvation, abuse and injustice in a cool, matter-of-fact tone. She takes time to illustrate the horrid, inhumane conditions in the jails that women and children accused of witchcraft were locked in: their grotesque and vile illnesses, lesions, blood, desperation, torture and madness. There is little joy, no humour and absolutely no happy ends in this world...
The Daylight Gate also makes an interesting feminist comment on the persecution of women in the name of witchcraft. It seems that, at the time, any woman could be accused. It didn't matter if you were a poor, old woman living in seclusion or a rich and influential widow: if you did anything suspicious or criticised the wrong people or if you were in any way linked to something or someone suspicious, you had little chance of defending yourself. Once you had been accused of any association with witchcraft, your reputation was forever spoiled.
Although I enjoyed reading the book, it didn't fulfill all my expectations. It wasn't amazing, it was just... ok. Perhaps I got an overdose of all the gristly, gothic descriptions; or perhaps the short sentences and staccato rhythm of the story just got tiring. Interesting idea, but not one of my favourites by Winterson.
Jeanette Winterson: The Daylight Gate. Hammer. 2012. 194 pages.
The Guardian: The Daylight Gate
Wikipedia: Jeanette Winterson