Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

 My wife started out her career as a children’s librarian in a small school in North Carolina.  She went onto graduate school and currently works for the Baylor University Library.  She has never forgotten her kiddie lit roots, so we have a lot of children and young adult fiction in our collection.  She frequently urges me to read this or that Newberry Award winner, and I have enjoyed everyone I read.  Madeleine L’Engle recently came up in a conversation, and we were both surprised I had never read it.  After the intense historical novel by Hilary Mantel I had recently finished, I needed something to sooth my psyche.  A Wrinkle in Time is exactly what the librarian ordered.  I noted from the cover of my copy, that this interesting tale recently celebrated its silver anniversary.

Madeliene L’Engle was born November 29, 1918.  Like Meg, she was not a good student preferring to read and write her stories.  When she was 12, her mother sent her to a Swiss Boarding school.  She returned to Charleston, SC for high school.  Madeleine flourished there, and ended up at Smith College, where she read the classics and continued to write.  Several of her English professors had a profound influence on her writing.  When she graduated, she moved to Greenwich Village in New York, and worked in the theater.  Her first two novels were published during this time.  Madeleine began an association with the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, where she was the librarian and maintained an office for more than thirty years. She wrote over 60 books. She died in 2007.
Madeleine L'Engle

Meg and her brother Charles Wallace are bright children, but Meg seems bored, and Charles Wallace hides his intellect to prevent teasing by his classmates.  A mysterious visitor – Mrs. Whatsit – comes for a visit, and she entices Meg and her brother to go on a dangerous journey to find their father who suddenly disappeared.  Mrs. Murry, Meg and Charles’s mother is a scientist like Mr. Murry.  Mrs. Whatsit has two friends – Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.  They have strange powers and abilities and help to guide the children to their father’s location, so they can attempt to rescue him.  A friend of Meg’s, Calvin O’Keefe, also accompanies Meg and Charles Wallace on the journey.  I guess even characters in young adult fiction need a love interest, like Katniss in Hunger Games and Harry in The Sorcerer’s Stone and its sequels.

While not nearly as exciting and detailed as The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter Series, the tale has more than enough wonderful ideas to hold the attention of an adult reader.  Science, religion, and literature are all woven into the tale.  For example, L’Engle writes, “‘You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet?  A strict form, but freedom within it?’  ‘Yes.’ Mrs. Whatsit said.  ‘You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.  What you say is completely up to you.’” (219).

An easy read for a few afternoons, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is interesting, and well worth the time.  It also deserves 5 stars.

--Chiron, 12/31/13

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