The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s “late plays.” It tells the story of a king whose jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter and the death of his beautiful wife. His daughter is found and brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of extraordinary events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited. In Jeanette Winterson’s retelling of The Winter’s Tale we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other.
I’m not a fan of Shakespeare, but I usually end up liking retellings of his plays. I’ve never read The Winter’s Tale, and I also didn’t read it, as it was included in the beginning of this book. I wanted to read and review the story on its own merits, not comparing it to Shakespeare. Over all, I enjoyed the story, and have my own theories as to what the “gap in time” really means.
I was disappointed in the chapter structure in the eBook. There were some seriously long chapters that could’ve been easily broken down into more chapters. I assume this was done to simulate the “three-act” structure that Shakespeare apparently used. (Did I mention I’m not a fan of Shakespeare?) The hardcover was easier to read in this regard, and I’m glad I was able to get a copy from Blogging for Books.
The second and third acts are lightning fast, and only a character or two were comically clichéd. I decided part way through the third act that I would dedicate the additional reading time to finish the book last night.
The ending was quaint, but instead of the book ending, it launched immediately into some sort of commentary by the author as an observer of the events, and finally to some sort of weird soliloquy that was uninteresting. All the text after the end of the story reminded me of Puck’s final speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Overall, the story was a fun read, and I would be interested in reading other works from this author.
Novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959. She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England. Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985. She graduated from St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and moved to London where she worked as an assistant editor at Pandora Press. One of the most original voices in British fiction to emerge during the 1980s, Jeanette Winterson was named as one of the 20 ‘Best of Young British Writers’ in a promotion run jointly between the literary magazine Granta and the Book Marketing Council.