The Daylight Gate

Grove. Oct. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780802121639. $24. F
OrangeReviewStarThis short novel brings to life 17th-century England during the reign of James I at the Pendle witch trials in 1612. The presence of witchcraft is clear, and Satan appears briefly, yet the accusations against 13 women are highly politicized, much like the Salem witch trials of 1692 in America. The protagonist is Alice Nutter (a real-life victim who was recently honored with a statue in the Lancashire village of Roughlee, her home before she was taken to Lancaster Castle to be tried), who speaks up for the condemned and finds herself facing charges. As we learn more about Alice's history, we see how a great past love she experienced has and will cost her dearly. The story of Alice's affair with another woman is erotic and gripping, and the story's supernatural elements are intriguing. Alice is a complex character with a big heart, a woman who embraces her sexuality and stands up against the powerful. This is a suspenseful, disturbing novel about passion, injustice, sacrifice, and bravery in the face of hideous torture and execution.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of Winterson, an eclectic British writer whose first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel. Those with a fascination for this dark era in history will be eager to read. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/13.]
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