Day 532: The Daylight Gate

Cover for The Daylight GatePurely by accident, I recently read two books based on historical fact that feature witches. In Corrag, women are falsely accused of witchcraft, and the only thing even approaching the paranormal is a woman with second sight. The Daylight Gate is about the Lancashire witch trials. It supposes that witchcraft exists and that some of the women were witches.

As in Corrag, some of the characters are based on actual people. The novel hinges on the inexplicable condemnation of one woman, Alice Nutter, who was a completely different type of person from the other accused. She is the novel’s principal character. While the Device family and the others are poor, degraded beings who practice witchcraft as well as incest and other abominations, Alice Nutter is a wealthy and apparently blameless older woman who lets them stay in a tower in the wilds of her property.

We soon find that most of the authorities’ attention toward Alice is politically motivated. Alice is known to be linked to Christopher Southworth, a Catholic priest who is implicated in the Gunpowder Plot and has fled to France. In the mind of King James, the Catholic mass and the Black Mass are indistinguishable. So too believes the repellent Thomas Potts, a lawyer who is driving the attempt to build a case against Alice. He is also writing a book about witchcraft in Lancashire. It behooves him, then, to find some actual witches.

Potts has Southworth’s sister Jane, a completely innocent Protestant, arrested with the Devices and their cohorts in an attempt to lure her brother back to England. It works, and Alice is at least guilty of harboring Southworth. As Alice skates closer and closer to danger, we learn that she will not turn back because of love, for two very different people.

This is an interesting novel rather than an affecting one. I sympathized with Alice, and even with the magistrate, Roger Nowell, who does not believe in witchcraft. Other characters, though, are despicable and some events distasteful. Details of the Devices’ lives are picaresque. Not all of the novel was to my taste.

8 thoughts on “Day 532: The Daylight Gate

  1. Cecilia June 6, 2014 / 2:59 pm

    I’m actually quite interested in this topic and I have been looking for good titles. This sounds like it was a mixed bag for you, but I’ll check out your review for Corrag. Do you have any other recommendations by any chance?

    • whatmeread June 6, 2014 / 3:03 pm

      I’m not sure which part of the topic you are referring to, the witches, the historical fiction, the combination? Deborah Harkness has written two of a trilogy with the main character as a witch. The first one is set in the present, and the second one is in the past. They are lighter in tone and more fantasy-oriented than either of these. More romantic. The witch is in love with a vampire.

      • Cecilia June 6, 2014 / 3:06 pm

        Yes, both.

    • whatmeread June 6, 2014 / 3:05 pm

      Oh, also The Deliverance Dane book, maybe? It’s a combination of historical fiction and present-time with real witches. Also more fantasy oriented than either of these.

      • Cecilia June 6, 2014 / 3:07 pm

        Hmm….I’m not big on fantasy, though maybe that sounds contradictory if I am interested in witches…

      • whatmeread June 6, 2014 / 3:16 pm

        Let’s just say that The Daylight Gate has real witches, but its emphasis is on the historical fiction. The Deliverance Dane book goes back and forth, but it has a good grounding in historical fiction and the witchcraft part mostly comes in at the end. The Harkness books are more light reading and fantasy.

  2. writereads June 7, 2014 / 3:57 pm

    AHHHHH! Okay, this book never made it to stores in Canada (it wasn’t picked up by any Canadian distribution, which is frikkin ridiculous) and it’s killing me as Winterson is one of my favourite authors and I’ve been waiting for it for what feels like eons. The paperback is coming out in the states in October, so I live in hope.
    Anyway, rant aside, thank you for the review so I know it’s going to be good when it gets to me 🙂 -Tania

    • whatmeread June 8, 2014 / 12:22 pm

      I got it on Amazon. I’m in the US, so I assume you could, too. I didn’t notice, but I don’t think it was shipped from the UK.

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