Tanglewreck, by Jeanette Winterson, for Timeslip Tuesday

I almost never say what I really think about books I don't like, unless there are really useful reasons not to like them (like hateful content). Mostly I get around this, if I feel I Have to review a book, by saying something like "readers who adore love-sick slugs will find these slimy antics delightful." It made a rather fun change of pace to write this....although I did finish it, without being forced to, and didn't complain to my loved ones vociferously while reading it, so it's more that it didn't work at all for me, I think. Readers with a higher tolerance than me for time and space travelling whimsical high jinxs where the stakes are so high as to be almost meaningless will doubtless find it delightful.

Tanglewreck, by Jeanette Winterson, a middle grade (ages 9-12) timeslip story, got great reviews when it came out in 2006:

"The sheer exhilaration of the adventure and the many fascinating historical and scientific allusions will keep readers engrossed through to the satisfying conclusion." -Publishers Weekly

"An appealing read for fantasy and science- fiction fans alike...Well-developed main characters add liveliness and suspense to the story, while secondary characters (a pair of inept thugs, the original Schrödinger's cat) add touches of humor to a basically sober story. The climax is chaotic and exciting; the resolution is realistic, bittersweet." -Kirkus Reviews

And more, which you can see gathered together in the Goodreads listing linked above.

So I was expecting great things. It started off really well, with time tornadoes wrecking havoc in London, stirring up bits of the past and making bits of the present vanish, and with an orphaned girl, Silver, living in a lonely old house (that has a mind of its own) with her unpleasant guardian. But then Silver gets tangled up in a huge plot involving the control of time and space through a device that just happens to be a family heirloom of hers, and in the course of figuring out what this device does, she realizes she is the chosen one of prophecy (I was never exactly clear on the whole prophecy business, but whether that was the fault of the book or of my muddled brain, I'm not sure).

In any event, there's lots of thwarting of bad guys, travel to a future planet with three moons that's also the afterlife (?), happy time (for Silver) spent under London with a culture of "Throwbacks," who escaped Bedlam (the insane asylum) many many years ago, and many more twists and tangles spawned by a marriage (a forcibly arranged sort of marriage) of physics and whimsy. There's also bits that "tug on the heartstrings" and when I read them I thought "my heartstrings are being tugged on." Mostly my emotions were left unstirred, though, and I never cared all that much about Silver and the friends she made along the way. I was pretty busy being confused. The time tornadoes, which I found interesting, stopped being important to the story (the planet of three suns far in the future that is also possibly the afterlife has no time tornadoes, and though there is a black hole it doesn't spit out 100 year old books so what's the point.)

So you may have gathered I didn't care for it, and the more I read, the more I felt like Tanglewreck was an excellent title for the book (my brain kept suggesting Time Tangle Wreck as an even more apt title....). But then again, I have a Very Strong Aversion to secret underground societies of "throwback" humans, especially ones with underground ponies. It doesn't work for me even in The Whispering Mountain, by Joan Aiken, who is a brilliant writer, and here it felt weird and rascist-esque (mainly because they were called throwbacks even though they were survivors, not actually throwbacks), but also they had spade-like hands of mole-ish (or spade foot toad-like) digging, which I found distrubing, and so after the time spend with them and one of the Throwback kids becoming Silver's new best friend for life I stopped caring much even though he's a perfectly nice character....

That I didn't care for the book, of course, doesn't mean that other people won't, which is why I started this with the quotes. (although, n.b. if you read the Kirkus quote--Schrödinger's cat is more an aside than a secondary character, so don't get your hopes up on that account). That being said, The Battle of the Sun (Tanglewreck 2, apparently) seems to have nothing to do with the planet of three suns, and my friend Maureen's goodreads review is very positive, so I will probably try it at some point...


  1. I bought this for the library at some point, but weeded it a couple of years ago. It did okay but just wasn't going anywhere the last couple of years! More YA pacing than I'm used to, I think. I'd forgotten about The New Policeman from this same period.

    1. you liked it more than I did, but I think I enjoyed New Policeman more...


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