While The Gap of Time omits Shakespeare’s “Exit, pursued by a bear,” Winterson makes the connection between her novel and The Winter’s Tale explicit. She introduces her version with a summary of the original and comments that “the end of play, without explanation or warning or pyschological interpretation, throws all the characters forward into a new life. What they will make of it is left to the ‘gap of time’” (6).
This novel deals with that “gap of time.”
The main narrative of the work stands perfectly independently, occasionally fractured and somewhat dependent on analepsis. Its dramatis personae are Shep and his son Clo of New Bohemia, USA, and their daughter/sister Perdita, who is white while the others are black, “so she knows she was found” (23). The protagonist is Leo Kaiser, financier, married to MiMi a French singer; long time friend of Xeno with whom he went to school; employer of Pauline, his indispensable personal assistant and of Cameron who’s ex-army and handles security. Then there’s Xeno’s son Zel and Autolycus a car salesman and Milo, Leo and Mimi’s son, who ran away from Leo at the airport and ran “round the corner of the building and into the path of a repair truck” (233). We should not forget Tony, Leo’s one-time gardener, or Lorraine La Trobe, a receptionist with a penchant for orange jump suits, nor the singers HollyPollyMolly.
Echoing its predecessor, Winterson’s novel is darkly comic. However, I think I might argue that Winterson is somewhat more hyperbolic in her comedy than Shakespeare. There is that bear, of course, in the original. She is also more intrusive than Shakespeare. She is after all writing a novel not a play, and her chosen genre allows her to frame her narrative with commentary.
The Winter’s Tale is one of those “difficult” later comedies that somewhat surprise us in their resolution. Up until Act Three, we feel we are in the world of tragedy and then suddenly in Act Four, it’s all spring flowers and country dances and regeneration. One of the difficulties with The Winter’s Tale is we cannot really see any justification for or motive behind Leontes’ irrational, unfounded jealousy. Winterson’s Leo, though outrageous, is a much more sympathetic character than Shakespeare’s Leontes. Again, perhaps it is the novel form that allows Winterson more opportunity to reveal the psycho-pathology behind Leo’s behaviour.