The Daylight Gate – by Jeanette Winterson

The Daylight GateSynopsis: Good Friday 1612. Pendle Hill.

A mysterious gathering of thirteen people is interrupted by a local magistrate. Is it a witches’ Sabbat?

In Lancaster Castle two notorious witches await trial and certain death, while the beautiful and wealthy Alice Nutter rides to their defence.

Elsewhere a starved child lurks. And a Jesuit priest and former Gunpowder plotter makes his way from France to a place he believes will offer him sanctuary.

But will it? And how safe can anyone be in Witch Country?

Title: The Daylight Gate
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Hammer
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9780099561835


There has always been something about witchcraft that has intrigued me; being brought up on books and films such as The Sword in the Stone, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and Harry Potter, I was convinced I could be a witch and wanted to learn the ‘craft’.  I even love black cats.

This obsession has continued in my adult life to a lesser degree (thankfully!); I have finally accepted that I am not a witch but do still love reading books about the subject. I still love black cats too.

When I was lent The Daylight Gate by a friend, I tried really hard to put it in its correct place in the TBR pile, which was pretty low down. But the cover was really pretty so it went up to about halfway up (what?! Let’s not pretend that we’re not all suckers for a good cover!). Then I read the author’s note; which explained that the novella is based on the Pendle Trials … a book that is fictional but could be kind of be true and is based on real life events? Err… up to the top it goes!

I excitedly settled down that evening to get started on the book, it’s only 240 pages so I figured I could finish it pretty quickly. I was right, I finished it about 3 hours later. The Daylight Gate is definitely a quick read; the plot is uncomplicated and the language simple and easy to get into.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t that impressed with the book; don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent read and I did enjoy it. But given that the story was based on the Pendle trials, I felt some additions came across as silly and a bit awkward. The inclusion of Shakespeare, for instance, just really didn’t work for me.

Winterson attempts to fit too much into a small novella. The plot includes a heady brew of Satanism, anti-Catholicism, rape and sexual violence, torture and death; that’s a lot for a 400-page book, let alone a 240-page novella. These weren’t covered in enough detail and came across as convoluted, unbelievable and, at times, ridiculous.

I also found The Daylight Gate to be a bit confused in its message; the narrative shifts between witches being portrayed as poor women, the victims of anti-female prejudices – to the ‘real’ witches, who have sold their souls to the devil. The more I read, the more confused I was as to which message Winterson was running with.

Furthermore, it really irked me that the only witchcraft in the entire book was a magical hour at sunset, voodoo dolls, and a chemically produced elixir of youth (in modern terms ­– anti-wrinkle cream). That was, literally, it.

All in all, The Daylight Gate is a good read as a filler of time but, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t recommend it. It seems to confused in it’s message and too full of randomly assorted events that ‘should be in a book about witchcraft’. AND there’s not actually that much witchcraft in it.


I still need a witchcraft fix so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Or I could just get a black cat.

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