Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson

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Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Full of vitality, humour and science and mixed with a dose of refreshingly unsaccharine love, this is a big book for the little ones, despite its occasional loose end. Best read aloud and enjoyed together.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-1599900810

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Time is being stolen by an evil woman called Regalia Mason. She plans on packaging it up and selling it to the highest bidder. If she can manage to gain control of time, Regalia Mason and her company, Quanta, will rule the world. And she's almost, almost there. Time tornadoes are whirling through London, whipping up whole busloads of people and spinning them away, never to be seen again. Woolly mammoths are appearing on the Thames. Regalia Mason is perilously close. Provided that is, she can prevent Abel Darkwater, sinister alchemist and magician of indeterminate age, from discovering a powerful clock known as the Timekeeper and ruling the world himself.

But both Regalia and Abel have reckoned without Silver, an eleven year old orphan living far from the frightening temporal shifts in London at Tanglewreck, her family home. Silver has the requisite evil aunt/guardian, Mrs Rockabye, who has the requisite familiar - a murderous rabbit called Bigamist. And Silver, it turns out, is the child of prophecy - the only one who can discover the whereabouts of the Timekeeper, and with it, save the world. The ensuing adventure includes a race of "throwbacks" living under the city, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, a planet containing a replica of the Vatican, together with every Pope that ever lived, a pair of pantomime villains called Thugger and Fisty, and Elvis, a robotic dog.

There is a vivid energy about Tanglewreck that really draws you in. It's wildly imaginative and beautifully written and the action never detracts from the wonderful way in which the words are put together. There are also laughs aplenty amidst the pell-mell of the narrative. Much of it comes in the dialogue which is absolutely superb, full of deadpan humour and throwaway lines. At one point, Abel Darkwater and one of the wicked Popes (all the Popes got to heaven, you see, even the wicked ones) are about to try some dark magic stress techniques on Silver in order to discover the whereabouts of the Timekeeper...

Abel Darkwater moved forward as if to strike Silver in the face, but the Pope restrained his arm. "Torture, yes, violence, no," said the Pope.

And if that isn't the neatest piece of Doublespeak you ever did see, you ever didn't see at all. I love it that Winterson trusts the children to get the joke. And they do, because it's plain common sense. And they like Silver because she's full of plain common sense too. It's the grown ups who can't see their noses right under their faces. In a children's book, that's just how it should be.

This is not to say that Tanglewreck doesn't have its problems. At four hundred and odd pages, it's probably overlong for the under tens. There are more than a few loose plot ends and sometimes its vivacity gets the better of it and the whole thing loses its way for a chapter or two. I often moan about trainspotterish world-building in fantasy novels, but Tanglewreck could have done with a little bit more of it than it has. Winterson doesn't always follow the rules she laid down just a few pages before and it occasionally serves to confuse. However, these are minor niggles really. The chapters are short and approachable and length certainly doesn't matter if you're reading aloud, for which Tanglewreck is perfectly suited. It's a rambunctious riot of a story, clearly written with affection. And most of all, it's great fun to read.

My thanks to the good people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle In Time is an equally entertaining and more belt and braces look at the meaning of time for slightly older children, while Louis Sachar's Someday Angeline has the same quirky love of language and would be easier for little ones to read alone.

Buy Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson at Amazon.com.


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