The Gap of Time is Jeannette Winterson’s retelling (“cover version” in her words) of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. She says stories have only three possible endings: tragedy, comedy, or forgiveness (“Happily Ever After is just a coda to one of these endings,” according to Winterson). In this version, Winterson amplifies the forgiveness, which she says is implicit in Shakespeare’s work.
This tells the tale of Leo, London-based venture fund Titan, who suspects his best friend (who is gay in orientation, but bisexual in practice) is sleeping with his best friend. His inchoate and unreasonable rage (bedroom webcams, murderous carpark chases, raping his very pregnant wife) leads to his new baby being orphaned and adopted by an African-American father and son in Louisiana. Fate being what it is, all the players in the original drama reunite when the girl turns eighteen with some traumatic and surprising results for all involved.
The novel has a brisk and sometimes breakneck pace, managing to leap years backward and forward seamlessly and maintain a sense of tension even where the results, as in Shakespeare, are inevitable. She manages to weave into the narrative multiple allusions to multiple texts, disquisitions on the plasticity of time, and above all, meditations on the power of fate.
Like her inspiration, Winterson loves genderbending and ranges of sexual orientation, which has been present in all her novels that I have read, and this one is no different. Similarly, while it begins anchored in the economic meltdown of 2008, most of the action takes place in a somewhat nondescript future not clearly of a different sort than or disjointed from our present, but somewhat indistinct--a commonplace in Winterson, where the exact setting -- like certain characters’ gender or orientation -- is never perfectly clear.
At times, the dialogue, particularly amongst the younger characters, is a bit stilted, but this is a brisk, generous work, and a due homage to the Bard.