I am not a feminist and while I have enjoyed the book, I am not a huge fan of "Oranges are not the Only Fruit", arguably Winterson's most prolific work. I reckoned I needed that disclaimer in reviewing this book. That and, this book has been widely classified as YA/Junior literature.
Tanglewreck is a book about time and relativity. Viewed simply, it is a story about time-travel. In this book, the protagonist, Silver, lives in a time when London was caught in Time Tornadoes. Time has lost its constancy, with some days longer than others, time stopping suddenly and jerking forward. People are caught in a pockets of Time, either in the past or in the future. The key to ending this madness lies in the Timekeeper, which is an alchemist's watch but Silver will have to fight a sinister Abel Darkwater in a quest to possess this device.
That's as much as I can share about the plot without spoilers - in fact that was as much of a plot that I could discern. Tanglewreck has a problem with identity. On one hand it attempts a simple, truncated plot in order to cater to young minds; on the other hand the references it deals with are very complex, ranging from philosophical musings about time and physics of relativity to an agnostic view of religion and the play on idioms and puns. In so doing, I don't think the book satisfies either audience. The young fails to understand the obscure references and the mature reader is bewildered with the careless plotlines, and both will probably chafe at the horribly depressing ending. (There are cathartic endings and there are just plain depressing endings - in the first you weep, and the latter, demoralised) To make matters worse, Winterson also has a perplexing way of flitting in between scenes, with very tenuous links between the chapters.
All in all, it was a frustrating read for me. Winterson's command of the English language was superb and her use of poetic devices even in a novel was effective - but the plot! the details! It started out fine enough, engaging enough before it descended into a fury of impossible philosophies. The only other book (series, rather) that deals with such complex discussion of physical sciences in the same bewildering fashion was Philip Pullman's Dark Materials. Nonetheless, if you treat this book, not as a work of children fantasy fiction, but as a compendium of ideas about time and relativity, it IS a highly thought-provoking piece and DOES provide very fertile ground for thought and discussion.
I'll recommend this book to people who like Philip Pullman's Dark Materials (after Golden Compass), physicists, literature students and advance readers who love ideas for the sake of ideas.