Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Middle Grade Classic: A Wrinkle in Time


Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Publisher:   Originally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1962, 203 pages.
Source: I have owned a copy for years, though of a more recent (1980) paperback edition.

This is a book for which the term "speculative fiction" might have been invented. Part science fiction, part fantasy, it is a great quest story with a twist. Meg Murray and her little brother, Charles Wallace, are misfits. They team up with another misfit, Calvin O'Keefe, and three very unusual entities, and travel through space and time to a planet where a single brain rules everything, and free will is non-existent, in order to rescue Meg's father. How they manage that and what it requires of them is the core of the story.

There is a reason this is a classic and holder of a Newbery Medal. Although the story occasionally feels a little heavy-handed with morality, it has held up very well over time (possibly better than I have), and continues to work both as a great adventure with just a hint of teen romance and as an exploration into what it is to be human. The characters, especially Meg but also Charles Wallace and Calvin, are well-drawn. Meg is very human, which at times makes me squirm a bit, but I realize that is because I can recognize my own faults in her. It's nice to know that those faults are part of what allows her to succeed in her quest!

Reading this book as a writer I can also see the fun that L'Engle had writing characters like the three almost supernatural beings, Mrs Who, Mrs What and Mrs Which*--not to mention the Happy Medium. Like me, I suspect she didn't always care if her jokes went over the heads of her younger readers.

Wrinkle is a fun book to read, and one that leaves the reader something to think about when it's finished. What more could we ask?

I recommend this for children and adults from about age 10 or 11 and up. I would be remiss if I did not address L'Engle's use of both an occasionally heavy-handed (in my opinion) Christian imagery and philosophy--and her use of quotations and beliefs from many other philosophies. L'Engle was a writer whose strong Christian faith informed her work, and while most of her characters are at the least questioning what they believe, the writer herself writes from a place of firm belief. As an agnostic reader, I am aware of times when I may not agree with everything she says, but I do not find that it destroys my enjoyment of a good read. Some readers may be more troubled by this than I am (and I suspect some of the most troubled readers will be Christians who are not comfortable asking questions).

*An interesting note of Who, What, and Which: L'Engle wished for the names to be printed as I have written them, English-style with no period on "Mrs," in order to emphasize their status as something Other. This, however, was apparently too much for the type-setters, and the only editions in which this was done were the British ones, where it of course did not communicate anything.  I no longer remember in which of her non-fiction works I read this.

Full Disclosure: I have owned a copy of  A Wrinkle in Time for many years, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  1. Rebecca, I have to tell you---I'm not a huge fan of this book, as are so many : / I enjoyed the first half (?) of the book much more than the last. I love fantasy and like morals when not done didactically, but there was something about the science fiction aspect of it that threw me and left me not wanting to read beyond that book. Obviously, I am in the minority on this! lol

    1. I can see what you mean, and I also have mixed feelings about what I see as a blend of SF and fantasy. I actually like the other books in the series better, though they all share a certain mysticism that can annoy.


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