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I’ve not read any of Jeanette Winterson’s work before, even though many of her previous books have been highly rated. I will admit I fell first for the atmospheric cover of The Daylight Curse and synopsis, which seemed a just the thing for an R.I.P. read. and its slim page count seemed a perfect introduction to Jeanette Winterson’s writing.
An often cruel retelling of the lead up to the notorious Pendle Witches Trials, much of the framework is based on the already well-known official records of the time by Thomas Potts, but Jeanette Winterson weaves her own embellishments into the tale, weaving in a history of love and lust between a number of the protagonists.
It wasn’t a good time for women back in the 1600s and Jeanette Winterson doesn’t shy away from describing the pitiless aspects of life back then and the squalor the accused were kept in.
The sparse prose means this novella is not filled with any unnecessary details, but also nicely reflects the sparse atmosphere of the fifteenth century Lancastrian surroundings. That is not to say, there are not flashes of beauty in the writing, because there are.
But ultimately, it ended up feeling a little flat. I did enjoy the story, but considering the atmosphere and subject matter, it could have been much spookier, than it was.
GOOD FRIDAY, 1612. Pendle Hill, Lancashire.
A mysterious gathering of thirteen people is interrupted by local magistrate, Roger Nowell. Is this a witches’ Sabbat?
Two notorious Lancashire witches are already in Lancaster Castle waiting trial. Why is the beautiful and wealthy Alice Nutter defending them? And why is she among the group of thirteen on Pendle Hill? Elsewhere, a starved, abused child lurks. And a Jesuit priest and former Gunpowder plotter, recently returned from France, is widely rumoured to be heading for Lancashire.
But who will offer him sanctuary? And how quickly can he be caught? This is the reign of James I, a Protestant King with an obsession: to rid his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price …