by Jeanette Winterson
Tanglewreck is Winterson’s first foray into the young adult market. (The King of Capri is an illustrated book aimed at younger kids, and everything else she’s written has been very much intended for adult audiences.) Curiously, I think it is also her longest novel to date. I’ll admit, I very much wanted to love this book. As a reader, I have a history with Winterson — and I even picked this up at Foyle’s, in London.
But I didn’t love it. Not in the way I loved Lighthousekeeping, with which Tanglewreck inexplicably shares characters. I was hoping for explicit connections between the two books, but there weren’t any. I respect Winterson’s right and ability to remix ideas and even characters (Weight is, after all, a cover story), but don’t think she pulled it off with the same level of inventiveness and magic here.
I suppose it is possible that I’m being too hard on this book. Maybe, if I were a twelve year old living in London, the mobile phone references would seem normal and not forced. Possibly the too convenient abilities of the Throwbacks wouldn’t have bothered me, and Abel Darkwater would have been more believably sinister. Perhaps my problem is that J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman have set the bar high for young adult books, in that what they write aren’t “just” young adult books, they are books dealing with major themes (love, loyalty, loss, right and wrong, faith, belief) that are accessible to young people. Tanglewreck, though it pains me to say it, is just a young adult book.
It isn’t without its charms, however. I found the popes amusing, the experiments at Bedlam a clever idea, the time tornadoes believable, and who doesn’t appreciate a well-placed woolly mammoth? I’ll be interested to see if Winterson writes another young adult book, but I’ll be more eager to read her next novel for the supposedly grownup, as that is where her real genius lies.