Monday, April 16, 2007


Tanglewreck, by Jeanette Winterson

This one is reviewed generally as children's fiction. I bought it from the YA section, and I think maybe that is where it should be. It is a bit gray though. The main character is 11 years-old. The story is very clean. But, the content is quite difficult. There are a lot of abstract ideas here that might just be too much for younger kids. I'd say 12 year olds would do well with it, older teens too, provided they can stomach the younger heroine.

I love Jeanette Winterson as an author for adults. Her books are evocative and painful and erotic and sensual and powerful. They grab you and stay with you. They tear apart your view of the world and force you to reexamine all of your own personal dogmas. So, when I heard that she was writing for young people I was immediately intrigued. I went out and bought it months ago. But, somehow it got lost in the shuffle and I'm just finished reading it now.

Tanglewreck tells the story of Silver, a young girl who lives in a rambling old mansion called Tanglewreck with her aunt, Mrs. Rockabye, and the aunt's spy rabbit, Bigamist. The house has been in Silver's family for centuries, and she was quite happy there with her parents and sister until they all disappeared mysteriously while on an errand about an old clock. The house is an important character. It is the sort of place where you might find a hat sitting on a table, a hat that someone happened to leave there 400 years ago.

As it turns out, Silver is the object of an ancient prophecy, and the clock her parents were involved with when they disappeared is a part of the same prophecy. Now Silver must find that clock, and to do so, she must evade two villains who have been chasing her through the centuries, and must travel through time and space.

Why? Because something strange is happening to the world. Time is becoming unravelled, and time tornadoes have been sweeping people out of their own time.

The book delves into thoughts on the nature of time, and the nature of power. It touches on wave theory and concepts of relativity. There is a fascinating blend of science and fairy tale, of morality play and adventure story. There is so much to the 400 plus pages, but it reads beautifully. One of the things I have always loved about Winterson is her incredible use of language. Her books for adults read so evocatively, so poetically. This book is different somehow. The words still fall off the page, but there is something more of warmth, of the teller of tales here. Its lovely.

But again I say that this is not, as advertised, a book for 8-12 year olds. The concepts are too big for an 8 year old. This is a book I would give to readers of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. It is for young readers, but for slightly more developed young readers.


kidletsmum said...

You have grabbed me! I want to read it! I'm also a huge fan of Winterson... and this one sounds incredible. As a lover of His Dark Materials, I'm sure this book is right up my alley. Do you think it might appeal to the same audience as A Wrinkle In Time? Anyway... I must get my hands on this somehow. Maybe I can get D to get the university libary to buy it.

Maggie said...

I saw this book reviewed on the Endicott site. I just love the title 'Tanglewreck'. Sounds like an intriguing story. :)

MadJenny said...

kidletsmum - Maybe Wrinkle in Time too. Definitely. But I think this is much more complex, so they might need to be a little more intellectually mature. But then, maybe this can be read just as an adventure, I'm not sure.

Maggie - I love the title too. Its completely visceral. And the house is just so cool.

kidletsmum said...

Hooray! D just tracked it down at the library for me (it was miscatalogued... gotta love that...) I can't wait to read it!!