Anne Fine on Alan Temperley’s Harry and the Wrinklies, a book that is pure escapism ...
I wish I’d written Harry and the Wrinklies. It’s such a happy book. Whenever I sit down to write a novel, my dark side seeps up the edges, so even the comedies keep a bitter edge. But Harry and the Wrinklies is an idyll. Through its pages roll all the glorious seasons of childhood. Just like the story, the prose is clean and bright, and the characters cheerfully memorable.
Especially our hero. Young orphan Harry has been rescued from his cruel and grasping governess by two mad aunts and their outlandish gang of superannuated bank robbers – the Wrinklies of the title. Along we rattle, thwarting the satisfactorily dreadful villains at every turn, but never having to worry. (Perfect for nailbiters like me.) I’d have adored this story when I was young, and read it over and over, till it was the most battered book on the shelf. I know its inclusion on the Whitbread shortlist raised one or two eyebrows. But only from those who have somehow forgotten that mainstay pleasure of the childhood read – pure, pure escapism.
So. Social realism, it ain’t. Heartening, it is. And if you’d like your children to turn brave, courteous and resourceful (just like young Harry) overnight, then order your copy now.
Harry and the Wrinklies is published by Scholastic (0 590 54224 9, £7.99 hbk, 0 590 11349 6, £4.99 pbk). Anne Fine’s next book, Loudmouth Louis, is published by Puffin in September.