The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

WintersonIt isn’t far from where I am writing to Pendle Hill and I grew up with the knowledge that there had been witches at Pendle at the start of the seventeenth century.

In The Daylight Gate, Jeanette Winterson has used the facts of the trial of the Lancashire witches of 1612 and woven the story that lies behind it.

“Of course we know that witches don’t exist and never did; they were just social outcasts, poor starving widows and misfits, victimised by men and people in power!” That was my attitude when I started reading this seductive story and at first, Jeanette Winterson seemed to be confirming my view.

Then we met the noblewoman Alice Nutter, strangely youthful for what must have been her advanced age. We found her sheltering one escapee from the Gunpowder Plotters (they too were to be found in Lancashire, an area of the UK that remained resolutely Catholic after the plot was unveiled and they had to flee).

Slowly but surely, in an exciting narrative, we realize that indeed witchcraft was rife, though perhaps not in compact with the Devil and not effectively practised by the riff-raff of the novel but as a positive and effective form of magic.