Monday, August 1, 2016

THE GAP OF TIME // Bookworm Is Grumpy

Note: There are mild spoilers in this review. Also, I will be doing a very spoilery discussion of Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE next Monday, so this is your advance warning if you want to read the play ahead of time. 

I'm using the Canadian cover here, 
because while the American cover is decently attractive in person, 

One Star—Ick

I won a copy of THE GAP OF TIME (a modern retelling of Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE) in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you! 

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book. 

As a general rule, I try to be fair and polite when I write reviews. I don’t want to discourage authors, no matter how much I dislike their work. But I am struggling to keep my claws in on this one, so grab your popcorn and settle in. This could get intense. 

The first chapter was beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. I honestly thought it was going to be one of my top favorites for this year, at least. There were wonderful lines, quotes like: 

“What is a memory anyway but a painful dispute with the past?

I read that the body remakes itself every seven years. Every cell. Even the bones rebuild themselves like coral. Why then do we remember what should be long gone? What’s the point of every scar and humiliation? What is the point of remembering the good times when they are gone. I love you. I miss you. You are dead.” 


“See what I mean about memory? My wife no longer exists. There is no such person. Her passport has been cancelled. Her bank account is closed. Someone else is wearing her clothes. But my mind is full of her. If she had never lived and my mind was full of her they’d lock me up for being delusional. As it is, I am grieving. 

I discover that grief means living with someone who is not there.” 

I love quotes like these. I eat them up. I was sure THE GAP OF TIME and I were going to be fast friends. Having already lucked out with VINEGAR GIRL, another Hogarth Shakespeare that I won at the beginning of the year, I thought that maybe I was going to be two for two. Lucky me. 

Then I got to the second chapter and everything went downhill so fast it was like watching a landslide take out all the houses on a hill. I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading. Of course, there had been a couple warning signs. I’d had to go ahead and skip a few pages because there was some rather explicit sexual stuff. But I figured, whatever, these things happen, especially in adult novels, and I will just have to suck it up and be a big girl and move on. I knew I was signing up for an adult novel when I entered the giveaway. 

Except it got more and more awful. So. Awful. 

After the red herring of a beginning, the story switches from an introspective first person narrative to an angry, angry third person POV. We go from Shep, a character I would have loved to spend the whole book with, to Leo, the stereotypical adult fiction male whose thought life makes me want to take a shower. I didn’t want to be in his mind—his awful, dirty, violent, chauvinistic, angryangryangry mind. I skimmed most of his portion because it was so unnecessarily explicit, and there was no balance to make his thoughts easier to stomach. 

“Wait,” you say. “Shakespeare was known for being inappropriate at times. Surely you knew that when you signed up. This is a Shakespeare retelling. Why are you complaining?” 

You are technically right, but Shakespeare was known for his clever innuendos, the double entendres that you don’t always catch. He doesn’t typically rub them in your face. True, THE WINTER’S TALE, upon which THE GAP OF TIME is based, is a bit more crude than some of his other plays (at least the ones I’ve read). But trust me when I say THE GAP OF TIME is ten times worse, with 90% less artistry. There is a reason why I rolled my eyes at passages in Shakespeare but got angry at THE GAP OF TIME. 

I don’t want to insult the author here, because I can tell she really likes Shakespeare. Good for her. I’m glad she’s found a writing hero. But I think she’s failed to understand certain aspects of his writing. For instance, the fools in Shakespeare’s plays are always the characters who make the most profound statements. Shakespeare was fond of this sort of irony. But Clo, who is supposed to represent the Clown from THE WINTER’S TALE, is merely slow and simple. There is nothing wrong with being slow and simple. But to have the representative of the most wise character be the only one to say the least wise things seems like missing the mark to me. There is also the matter of implying that MiMi does want to have an affair with Xeno, when, in THE WINTER’S TALE, the whole point is that she is absolutely blameless and that her husband is making completely unfounded accusations against her. Liberties like that detract from the power of the story. 

It wasn’t that THE GAP OF TIME stayed as horrible as it was in the first 100 pages. While it had more sexual stuff interspersed throughout the remainder, it was squeaky clean in comparison with the junk in the beginning. What bothered me about all the sexual elements, combined, is that they were entirely irrelevant. The fact that Leo is jealous of his wife and her perceived affair is evident enough in his outpouring of anger against his friend Xeno, whom he believes to be sleeping with his wife. It is evident in his suspicion and his paranoia. We don’t need to have him rape his wife out of jealous anger to see that he is being unreasonable and crazy. That part made me especially angry because it is never dealt with. And don’t try to tell me false accusations of an affair and rape are similar, because they aren’t. Sweeping one under the rug might work okay, but please don’t ever treat rape, of any kind, as though it’s not a big deal. 

And just overall, I don’t think there was any sort of accurate portrayal of love in this story. Everything seems to boil down to sex in the minds of these characters. It’s their predominant thought, and maybe it’s just a personality thing—maybe I just don’t understand because that’s not how my mind works. But sex and love are not synonymous, and when sex is used as the only evidence that two people love each other, I am likely to be dubious of the author’s understanding of love, at the very least. 

There is more. I could probably talk for another thousand words about the other issues that bugged me, like the way the author mistakenly attributes certain observations on human nature to Freud, or the way she offers yet another stereotypical representation of a Jewish character, or the way she clumsily breaks the fourth wall and uses the last portion of the novel to explain her work. 

Part of my frustration stems from a matter of taste and opinion, and I know I am being extra negative. I have not felt this indignant about a work of literature in a long while, probably since I read THE CANARY ROOM

I wanted to throw this book at the wall. I considered cutting it up with a pair of scissors so I wouldn’t have to finish reading it. I almost gave up and DNFed, because I figured it probably wasn’t worth waiting till the end to see if the story would redeem itself. And even if the story got better, I knew that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it anyway. But the problem is, I won it in a giveaway. It’s a $25 hardcover (why are adult books so expensive, anyway?) that I won at my request. Which means someone had to absorb the cost to make sure I got this book, with the understanding that I would pay in return with an honest review. I felt I owed that to the author and the publisher. 

So this is my honest review. I absolutely cannot recommend this book. I feel betrayed because the beginning was wonderful and it promised more wonderful, only to follow through with a steaming heap of unpleasantness. There were brief portions where I thought it would redeem itself. There were lines I still liked and remembered. But even those felt forced, as though the author was trying to be profound, and there is a difference between trying to be profound and being profound. 

The only way in which THE GAP OF TIME did not waste my time is that I have never written a book review so quickly in my life. Scrivener couldn’t even keep up with how fast I typed the rough draft—it kept freezing. 

I’m giving THE GAP OF TIME one star because I can’t give it zero stars. And also, the first chapter was nice, and would have warranted five stars if it were its own work. So maybe this book deserves one star for that one chapter, to make things fair and square. 

This is the tiny portion of the book I liked. Also, I am wearing a TARDIS shirt, in case you were wondering. 
(Sorry about the weird angle. I took this photo on my laptop.)

What about you, my little coffee beans? Have you been more than a little angry with a book? Have you loved the beginning of a book, only to be betrayed by the rest? Have you read any Shakespeare retellings? What are some tropes and stereotypes in literature that put a bee in your bonnet?


  1. Yikes. Here I was all excited about the concept of the retelling...but it doesn't sound like it's worth reading. *sigh* So sad. Obviously the author could have pulled it off--if he'd stuck to the voice of the opening chapter.

    1. I was excited too. :( It sounded like it had such potential. But yeah, I would have been better off not reading it at all. :(

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  2. Ugh, that is so disappointing! I hate when the first chapter is better than everything. I mean, the quotes you posted are literally so beautiful that this is the kind of thing that I would want to check out. And then... *sigh* That's really too bad. Really, really too bad.

    1. Indeed. :( It's so annoying, because the first chapter was SO GOOD. There were more quotes I could have included that were just as good as the two I shared, but grr. *sad face*

      Thank you for commenting! :)