There is much to like in Winterson's novel for older children (upwards) I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope it might have a sequel some time.
This fast-moving Fantasy/SF novel (it's a bit of both), about the power to control time, owes a lot to Philips Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It has a sparky young heroine, a Mrs Coulter-esque chief baddy who experiments on children, and most importantly, the Timekeeper - the powerful time controlling device that everybody wants. Mix in a dash of quantum physics, teleportation, time travel, an underground world beneath London, an Egyptian temple and a strong supporting cast including a giant rabbit, and you have all the ingredients for a heady adventure full of excitement, thrills, spills and some rather scary moments too.
Silver, our heroine, lives in her old family home - Tanglewreck, with weird Mrs Rokabye as her guardian; her parents and sister had vanished previously. Weird things are beginning to happen with time - it's warping, and time tornadoes have started to suck up and spit out people from different times and places. When Silver and Mrs Rokabye are approached by Abel Darkwater, a clock specialist who is searching for a old clock called the Timekeeper that Silver's father had been custodian of, Mrs Rokabye sees her chance to make a fortune - if only Silver could remember where the clock is ...
As an adult reader, I enjoyed the novel immensely, spotting all the references and influences and chuckling at the way the author warped space/time to work the plot. I think younger readers may be confused with the SF side of things reading it on their own, but it would make a great adventure for reading together; older readers will get the gist and will probably know a little about many of the historical characters mentioned.
Time is not behaving itself. Trains stall in time, then rush ahead as if to catch up, pyramids appear in London, a school bus gets sucked into a Time Tornado and vanishes, and there have been woolly mammoth sightings in the park. Most people can't make any sense of it, and it's getting worse. And the people who do understand it, well, they might be the most dangerous of all.
Silver is an eleven-year-old orphan, alone in the world. Well, not completely alone. She has Mrs. Rockabye, the aunt who mysteriously appeared after the death (or maybe disappearance) of Silver's family. Silver thinks that she'd rather be alone than with Mrs. Rockabye, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen any time soon. For now Silver's greatest comfort is her house, Tanglewreck. It comforts her, soothes her, and even speaks to her. She knows about the strangeness of time, but as long as she can stay at Tanglewreck, she doesn't seem to be too concerned.
Abel Darkwater knows about time, and he understands why it's behaving strangely. Abel is sure that time can be controlled, and that whoever controls time will control the universe. Abel intends to be that person. He's sure that all he needs is the Timekeeper. And he's positive that Silver knows where it is. After all, Silver's dad was bringing it to Abel on the day the family died.
Silver is in a race against time, literally, to keep the Timekeeper safe. If only she knew where it was. Or what it was. With the help of her strange, new, old friend, Gabriel, Silver will have to travel to unknown places and times on a quest for something she's never seen.
I've always loved time travel stories, and this one is no exception. This is the first story I've read that has dealt with the actual alteration of time as opposed to the adjustments of the main character inside a particular time. Although that's in here, too. And, I have to say that this is the closest I've ever come to understanding Quantum Theory. (Something I'm sure would be very disappointing to all of the science teachers I've ever had.) Don't let that intimidate you though. Previous knowledge is (obviously) not required. Whether or not you come away with an understanding of that is not really even the point, though a nice side benefit. The point is that this is a very good, interesting, and well-written story. Plain and simple. You should read it.
Reviewed by: Carrie Spellman
on 9 January 2008
Looking for something other than Jacqueline Wilson books for my 10 year old daughter to read I came across this.
She was reluctant to tackle it alone so we decided to take it in turns to read a page each and now she can't get enough of it! It helps that the 'heroine' is an 11 year old girl called Silver so she can easily identify with her.
If you're lookng for something a bit different to Tracey Beaker and cutesy animal stories you can't go far wrong with this. Thoroughly recommended.
on 22 February 2011
I bought this for my son's 11th birthday on the strength of a recommendationin the bookshop. He's quite hard to buy fiction for as he'd rather read encylopaedias or other factual books. He really enjoyed the book and when he'd finished, he lent it to me. Were he writing the review, I think he'd award five stars.
The first thing that stuck me was the high quality of the prose: "Riding the river as though it were a road was a phalanx of chariots and horsemen" I thought the prologue was very well written, expertly drawing the reader in. The book is hugely imaginative and ambitious; combining Egyptian mythology, quantum physics, time travel an underground race of beings and a preocupation with a youthful appearance to name but a few.
I loved the character of Silver and thought Winterson adept at conveying her loneliness. Regalia Mason was another great character, albeit an unlikeable one. Some of the other characters were a bit two-dimensional and like other reviewers, I found that the resolution of certain tricky situations weren't really explained properly. I felt that Winterson wanted to keep the pace of the story at break-neck speed, to the detriment sometimes, of a proper resolution. Having said that, if I'd read this book as an older child, I don't think I would have even noticed so gripping is the storyline.
All-in-all, a very good read, marred by some lazy shortcuts which should not be expexted from a writer of Winterson's calibre. Although the book is richly imaginative and very enjoyable, Beth Webb's Ring Fire (Fleabag Trilogy) is in my opinion, the better book of the two for children 10+ years.
on 8 July 2015
This is a kid's book in which even the adults behave like kids (even the thugs). It had such potential - a story about time becoming unraveled - but fluffs any SF credentials it might have had by offering up scientific themes - black holes, entanglement, wave duality, and time itself - without actually using them even in a "light" SF context. Instead, it has fantasy elements mixed with cod spiritualism (reincarnation and tarot, mind reading etc, and a house with a mind of its own). It also has a robot dog that hasn't come from the future, which presumably is only there to balance out the rather better equipped to cope with such things highly aware rabbit.
Obviously I am not the target audience, and using the basic rules of YA (protagonist minus two years) I assume this is aimed at nine year olds. But I'm not sure a nine year old me would have enjoyed it, for all I devoured many books at that age. The mix of SF and fantasy just doesn't seem all that coherent, and while the basic story is a hero quest, I found it somewhat hard to root for Silver as that hero.
Ultimately, it was about a half to a quarter as much fun to read as I'd hoped based on the premise. Somewhere there is a possible state where this book was a delight, even for grownups. This reality is not that one...
on 7 June 2014
I had no inkling this was meant for kids or teens or whatever. I just devour JW's books and love her writing. The fact that she lives round the corner from me in Spitalfields and often draws on local colour and characters is just an added bonus.
I persevered with this to the bitter end, but only because it was an easy read - in every sense - the philosophy is 11-plus level and the plot is Hollywoodesque in its simplistic nature. OK, some would say naive in a childlike way, which is fair enough, but I'm too old to read with the eyes of an adolescent, and frankly I think most of them these days would be bored by it anyway.
The whole warped-time scenario has been done better and more profoundly, so that aspect left me cold, to be honest.
I will continue to read her other books and hope for a more adult challenge in so doing. But if I want to gen up o quantum mechanics and Schrödinger's cat, this ain't the book to do it with, sorry.
on 3 February 2011
I have a 9-year-old daughter, and we still have the luxury of reading to each other at bedtime. I chose Tanglewreck because conceptually it was innovative, and refreshing - after all, you can only read/listen to so much of Jacqueline Wilson, Enid Blyton etc, and it becomes a little formulaic! Both my daughter and I were a little disappointed with the story and we both felt that it was a little too long; it could have been paired down in some places. It also felt quite dark throughout the story and as a result my daughter, when questioned, is uninterested in reading any other books authored by Jeanette Winterson, which is quite unusual, as she loves to read/be read to as many books as possible by the one author!
My other disappointment, which I did not bring to my daughter's attention was that one of the characters was a boy from Brixton, who was given an awful stereotypical dialect. I covered this accent by speaking normally; given that her father is from Brixton, both her parents are black, and neither her father, mother nor any of our many, many friends or family (from Brixton) speak with this accent(!!!), so she'd never understand what was being said if I'd spoken verbatim from the book!! I am extremely politically incorrect, believer in free speech etc, but this stereotype lacked creativity and was a little jarring, but perhaps we don't fit the demographic profile of the author's target audience.
I have never given a negative review before, especially given the fact that I appreciate that a lot of time and effort would have been put into the writing of a book, but... to conclude - great concept, too long, too dark, rather disappointing, in short, a lost opportunity.
on 20 May 2014
................this is a magical tale which takes you on a fantasy journey of spooky houses, mischievous behaviour and very strange people all beautifully told, the way only Ms Winterson with her expressive use of language.
If you like magical things you will love this lovely story - good for adults or child.
on 29 June 2006
Tanglewreck demonstrates effectively that Jeanette Winterson's most notable features as a writer - lyrical prose, and a lofty disdain for straightforward storytelling in favour of impassioned 'spiral narratives' - don't necessarily lend themselves to the demands of children's fiction. Or rather they might, but because she has reined them in for Tanglewreck, all we know is that without them, she's nothing special.
The story is what we might, depending on taste, call either traditional or clichéd. A little orphan girl lives with her cruel aunt in a rambling, tumbledown house. She has access - though she does not know it - to a device which could prevent a terrible disaster from bringing the world to an end. However wicked forces want to steal it from her and control the world themselves. When she is taken from the old house and held prisoner so that the baddies can find the device, a simple quest story begins. Oh and there are a race of beings who live underground. None of this sounds like anything we haven't seen a million times before - and I say that as someone who's not even familiar with much children's fiction.
Where it becomes perhaps more interesting is the nature of the disaster, and the device and the evildoers who are after it. 'Time tornadoes' are wreaking havoc around the world, causing pockets of time to slow down and speed up, or come to a halt altogether. Our heroine, Silver (who shares her name with the narrator of Winterson's most recent adult novel Lighthousekeeping), has access to the Timekeeper, a clock which can steady time. And apart from the man who wants it - Abel Darkwater (also chiming with Babel Dark from Lighthousekeeping) - there is also the glamorous scientist Regalia Mason, who has no interest in the Timekeeper, but is more dangerous because she wants the Time Tornadoes to frighten governments into entering private partnership deals with her company, Quanta, to supply time to everyone who needs it. Of course, they can only supply time by stealing it from others, including thirteen-year-old children whom they subject to 'time transfusions' and who come out the other end like 60-year-olds...
All this is to some extent quite a lot of fun, in an undemanding way, and the character names are good (did I mention the evil aunt: Mrs Rokabye?) and there are some good jokes, such as when Regalia Mason reflects that tracking child heroines is so much easier these days using GPS instead of a crystal ball. And I liked the battle between the magic of Abel Darkwater and the science of Regalia Mason - the latter flooring Darkwater by pointing out to him that all his magic can now be achieved by science.
But there's not much more to it, and indeed rather less to it at times, such as when Winterson indulges herself by allowing characters to get out of situations without really explaining why (though I'm tempted to forgive her this, as Winterson can write, and even when cutting corners, the book is always coherent and compelling), or resorts to some of the wishy-washy jackpot philosophising that mars some of her adult fiction. And, although Winterson can convey the impressions of a place - such as the house Tanglewreck itself, or Darkwater's shop Tempus Fugit - she too often leaves them behind just as we're getting used to them, and takes us somewhere else with equally frustrating brevity - the Einstein Line (rather good idea this, with the Popes who all think they're in Heaven), Bedlam, the underground world and so on. Presumably she was just afraid of boring her younger readers by staying in one place too long, and perhaps she was right: 9+ years, let us know. But for an adult the book has a limited amount to offer. Its zigzagging fluffiness and unconvincing threats aren't really made up for by the expertly crafted scenes and amusing characterisations. Not quite a wreck, but a bit of a tangle.
on 1 March 2013
An excellent read from beginning to end - even for a man :)
A good story well written - thank you.