Sunday, July 01, 2007
Winterson, Jeanette. 2006. Tanglewreck.
Tanglewreck is an exciting fantasy for young adult readers--if you can get past the somewhat unusual cover art. Perhaps it is just me, but cover art doesn’t always do a book justice. Consider that Tanglewreck had been on my shelf of books to read for almost six weeks before I actually picked it up. Yet, almost from the very beginning, it captivated me. Silver Rivers is a young girl, eleven, who is being raised by her “aunt” after the mysterious disappearance of her parents and sister several years before. Living at an old estate, Tanglewreck, she is about to be swept up into a dangerous battle over what most would consider to be an abstract concept: time. Abel Darkwater a mysterious villain with strange ways and an even stranger manservant is after a particular watch named “the Timekeeper.” He believes that Silver is aware of the location of this timepiece despite her protestations that her father never discussed such matters with her. Still it seems the fate of the universe--at least the universe as we know it--may rest in what she is able to uncover of her memories.
When the novel opens, the reader learns that time is wreaking havoc on the world. There are time tornadoes which are causing vanishings of people and places all over the world. Also time isn’t always flowing forward. Sometimes it’s stopping. Sometimes it’s slowing down. Sometime’s it’s speeding up. There is no scientific explanation. But there are some ancient prophecies about a “golden faced girl” who can save the world.
Silver knows nothing of the prophecies, she only cares about protecting what is left of her legacy. And she knows that her father would never want “the Timekeeper” to fall into the heads of such a person as Abel Darkwater who conspires to rule the universe.
But could there be an even bigger enemy lurking to gain control of Time? Can Silver protect the world from an enemy she knows nothing about?
Tanglewreck has an interesting backstory as well. It is a collaboration of sorts with Winterson and two of her best friend’s children:
The latest story — a collaboration between Winterson, Eleanor, 10, and her seven-year-old sister Cara — is now a book. Published by Bloomsbury next month, Tanglewreck is an action-packed, imaginative tale involving travel through time and space and an attempt at world domination by a clever, evil and beautiful woman called Regalia Mason. There is a heroine, the 11-year-old orphaned Silver; her friend and fugitive from Bedlam, the heartbreaking Gabriel; Silver’s horrible guardian, Mrs Rokabye; her pet rabbit, Bigamist; and sundry sinister characters all plotting to find the Timekeeper, an alchemist’s watch that alone can steady time and bring an end to the “time tornados” that threaten everyone’s lives.
Early on, Winterson and the two girls dreamt up the characters and elements of the plot: “I told them, if it works, we’ll write it,” says Winterson. “They are obsessed with being orphans so we got rid of Silver’s parents straight away. We talked about time: children know very well that one day is not the same length as another; they are much more attuned to the maverick nature of time and they live in a kind of eternal present, feeling boundaries as more malleable. We talked about what would happen if time ran out — like oil — and could be traded. If it did, Eleanor thought people would have to go back into the past to collect more. She said you’d need a clock to tell you what the real time was; this became the Timekeeper in the book.”