Sunday, 22 February 2009

Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson

My son brought this home from the library and it since I love Jeanette Winterson's adult fiction, I couldn't not read this! And I'm glad I did. It's Young Adult fantasy but absoloutely brilliantly written.
The heroine is Silver, an orphan girl who lives in a crumbling old mansion, Tanglewreck, with her cruel and uncaring aunt, Mrs Rockabye. Mrs Rockabye takes Silver to London to meet with a man named Abel Darkwater who wants a mysterious clock called the Timekeeper, which he believes Silver to have, or at least that she has knowledge of where it is.
The story is set in the present day UK, but in a world where the fabric of time is coming apart, causing Time Tornadoes and Time Slips. Time Tornadoes are like hurricanes that whip up anything and anybody in their path but instead of depositing them in another part of this world, it deposits them in another time altogether. This works both ways, leading to the appearence of a wooly mammoth on the banks of the Thames! It soon becomes clear that Abel Darkwater is interested in the Timekeeper for his own unpleasant purposes, and that Silver needs to find it for herself to save the day, and the world!
Ok, so as I said, pretty formulaic stuff so far. But being about the disintegration of time the story has a very wide ranging scope, stretching from the Bedlam Hospital in Eighteenth century London, to a mysterious place called the Einstein Line, with three suns and its own collection of Popes, in the Twenty-Fourth century. It seems to be able to combine current concerns with complicated scientificic ideas easily, and tie them all together with a degree of coherence.
The idea that we are all moving too quickly and that everything happns too fast in todays world is suggested as one of the possible causes of the time disturbances that are occurring in the world.
"'I think its our own fault', said the cabbie. 'We're all going so fast that we're taking time with us. Nobody's got any time nowadays, rush, rush, rush. Well here we are and theres no time left. I reckon time's running out like everything else on the planet-like oil and water and all that'"
I also really like the reference to actual people, the two I can recall being Einstein and Stephen Hawking. The book actually makes use of Hawkings oft quoted belief that if time travel were possible in the future then we would know about it because we would have visitors from the future time travelling into our present. And then having made this point, the book goes on to give a really simple reason as to why this argument is flawed!
Silver's adventure takes her through time and space, fighting two adversaries in a bid to stop them finding the Timekeeper and thus gaining complete control over time. Along the way it explores ideas about time and reality, the main one of these being that time is not static. It is always subject to change so just bcause something has happened in a particular time, doesn't mean it will always happen in that time! This leads to the idea that all possibilities exist at the same time! Silver's friend enters a Twenty-Fourth century hospital through the Eighteenth century Bedlam because that is the state he chooses to tune into.
"'Remember Silver, that you, me, everything in the universe came from a single explosion so the atoms in our bodies are linked with every atom in space and time. The universe is not local and isolated. It is a cosmic web'"
I really enjoyed this book. It was a fantastic story with some big ideas about space and time. I have read reviews that compare it to Phillip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy, butsince I haven't read this, I can't make this comparison myself. I also really likes the fact that although the ending is good, the author resists the temptation to give it a saccharine sweet ending, which she could so easily have done.
Just a couple of additions.
I have no idea whether the science in this book is accurate. The explanations of the theoretical implications of Quantum Mechanics sound plausible to me, but I'm no scientist. I don't think it actually matters because the story holds up well whether the science is accurate or not.
And this is the book I mentioned at the start of yesterdays Weekly Geeks post that inspired me to interview Tess Durbeyfield in an alternate reality.


Megan said...

This sounds great, one for the wish list. Thanks for the great review!

Simon Savidge said...

This sounds really good fun, I think I might wait until I have read any of her actual adult fiction first though. Stone Gods is on the top of my TBR though!

Jo said...

Megan, I really enjoyed it! Theres a lot to think about.

Simon, It is good, but I think Stone Gods is better. That one really does give you something to think about! hoe you enjoy it.