Tanglewreck was built in 1588 by a pirate, and is currently home to his last descendant, the hero of the story, 11-year-old Silver. It is also occupied by her mean aunt, Mrs. Rokabye, who makes Silver do all the cooking, cleaning and yardwork, and her aunt’s spying pet rabbit, Bigamist. Tanglewreck is a fantastical quest story about what happens when time starts to come apart. Time-tornadoes, time travelers and creatures out of time make life complicated enough, but when Mrs. Rokabye takes Silver to London to visit Abel Darkwater, things get much worse.
Abel Darkwater wants the Timekeeper, an ancient clock, because with it he can control time; he thinks Silver is the prophesized child who can find it. Regalia Mason, who runs a corporation called Quanta, is just as interested. Of course, Silver escapes Darkwater’s evil clutches and embarks on an adventure that takes her through space, time and several possible lifetimes. Silver meets a Throwback boy named Gabriel, who saves her more than once, and she gets to return the favour on a planet where there is no time, but plenty of people who are out of it: all the Popes, victims of time-tornadoes, Schrödinger’s Cat, and a curiously large number of twins.
This is Jeanette Winterson’s first novel for younger readers, but like her adult books, it is populated with average folk experiencing the extraordinary and finding strength and love where they may not have expected it. This book dances back and forth between physics and magic, and leaves several questions unanswered, but you may enjoy yourself so much that you won’t even notice.
This review from The Guardian provides more plot details, and a bit of a critique of the science. Another review from author Susan Olson explains what all Winterson fans know — that her prose begs to be read aloud. You can listen to audio excerpts on Winterson’s website, although sadly not from Tanglewreck. You will find the first two chapters, which you can read aloud if you like. A film version is rumoured to be in production.