Madeleine L’Engle : A Wrinkle in Time

Rebecca Steadman’s When You Reach Me impelled me to renew my affaire de coeur with A Wrinkle in Time. I read things with a different sort of eye than I did when I was, y’know, twelve, and some things stood out for me this time that didn’t before.

  • Yowza, one of my all-time favorite novels starts with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Did she do that on purpose? I feel like almost any editor in the current decade would just stop there. It wasn’t L’Engle’s first novel, but still.
  • As a kid, I didn’t think of this as a particularly Christian book. I was probably kind of obtuse, I don’t remember really noticing the Christian symbolism in Narnia either, until The Last Battle, where it sort of whops you over the head with an anvil. So this time I was more aware that L’Engle frames her good-versus-evil conflict in a context that’s congruent with Christianity. Narnia aside, explicit Christian references seem a bit more prevalent throughout than I remember from other children’s/young adult fantasies. Maybe if I revisit Cooper’s Dark is Rising cycle I’ll just find further evidence of my former obtuseness.
  • This book was published in 1962 (and according to Wikipedia written even earlier). A few aspects betray its age — some dated slang mostly, and Calvin’s behavior toward Meg seems a little presumptuous in spots. But it’s striking how current, even progressive, most of this is. A tough, but credibly fallible, girl hero! Her equally tough scientist mom!
  • Speaking of which, there are strains of Christianity that are either implicitly or even explicitly anti-science. They draw a lot of media attention and sadly have a lot of influence on school textbooks in some districts. L’Engle is not that sort of Christian at all. Huzzah!
  • Wow, what a long, long shadow this book has cast. When this book was released, I don’t think anyone would have described young adult (or “tween,” ugh) fantasy as a genre — because there was Narnia, The Hobbit, this, and darned little else. Lucy Boston’s Green Knowe books, I suppose, maybe a few others. And by 1962 I suspect Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander’s first novels were well underway. But still, I think you could make a case that this book is about as influential on young adult fantasy as The Velvet Underground and Nico was on indie rock.
  • Wow, that ending seems abrupt. Both the resolution of the conflict, and the wrap-up after it. I think an author in the current climate would have been encouraged to pad it out a lot more, if not to stretch the plot across multiple sets of covers.
  • I won’t confess to how long ago I last read this, but it’s got to be decades, plural. And there were whole chapters I’d so nearly forgotten that I didn’t know quite was next. But oh my goodness, there were whole paragraphs I could literally still quote verbatim. I could feel them getting near: here comes the ant metaphor of travel via warped space, and the moment where I know both what Meg can’t do and what she can do.

needs more demons? Of course not. Goes without saying.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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