The Daylight Gate

Written by Jeanette Winterson
Review by Doug Kemp

This is a short novel about the infamous hunting down and trial of the Lancashire witches in 1612. Jeanette Winterson admits to being fairly liberal about the known events and characters of the times, and the supernatural and occult dominates the narrative. Given the author’s background, it is perhaps not surprising that the theme of the novel focuses on the abuses of power and sexual violation that society’s hierarchies have justified under the name of religion. It is a cruel and violent England; one of the few characters that evokes the reader’s sympathy being Alice Nutter – a rich and kind-hearted widow, who as a young woman was given the elixir of life by the mage John Dee. The malicious forces looking for evidence of witchcraft and Catholicism eventually hunt her down. This is by no means a gentle little tale of eccentric witchcraft, but a disturbing and graphic account of hatred and evil – absorbing, if not exactly uplifting.