Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Review: 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine l'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1)I have finally done it! I've read one of the books from my 'Everyone seems to know these ones, why haven't I read them'-list! A Wrinkle in Time is the kind of book I have heard people wax nostalgic over, brought back straight to their childhood memories of reading late at night. What finally drew me to the novel was the curious mix between a female protagonist, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Children's Literature. For a novel that is over fourty years old that feels like quite an achievement. So I set to it, to sort of mixed results.

Original Pub. Date:1973
Publisher: Yearling Books
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. 
"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".
Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
Perhaps Meg Murry was the girl who started of the Awkward Teenage Girl trend in YA fiction, but if that is true than no author has ever rivalled L'Engle in actually describing what the mind of a teenager is like. From the beginning of the book Meg is struggling with wanting to fit in, but also wanting to be herself; comparing herself to others and always finding herself lacking; and having no one in the world who really seems to understand her, except her little brother. Meg's quick moves between anger and sadness and happiness are rather recognisable for anyone who remembers their teenage years, but L'Engle also gives them a context within which they make sense. There is no irrationality in how Meg is characterised, which is one of the joys of A Wrinkle in Time. She is a great heroine, one who is afraid, stubborn, angry, dedicated, loyal and above all, determined. She makes me wish I'd read this book when I was younger, so I could have appreciated her more.

At the heart of A Wrinkle in Time is the struggle between Good and Evil, which comes as no surprise when one finds out about L'Engle's Christianity. However, this conflict never feels like an excuse for L'Engle to become preachy but rather like simply an opportunity to discuss some crucial themes such as conformity and what we call 'the status-quo'. The Evil in L'Engle's galaxy takes the form of a darkness that dominates planets into absolute conformity. There is no room for individuality, creativity, spontaneity or difference, and wherever those things do appear they are punished. If one looks at the state of our own world now, how harsh some of our differences are punished and how much conformity is welcomed, A Wrinkle in Time still proves a timely read. Despite all its innocence, L'Engle's novel doesn't pull punches and especially for children it is an important message. The combination of the wild Meg, the insightful Charles Wallace and their trusty friend Calvin, through which we encounter all these themes makes them both delightful and interesting at the same time.

Madeleine L'Engle reminds me, in many ways, of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Their Christianity and their time informed their fantasy worlds, the morals and virtues that exist within, yet it never becomes entirely explicit. Lewis, out of these three, is the most opaque when it comes to his religion, his story lines clearly inspired, if not taken, from Christian lore. For L'Engle it is mainly the division between good and evil, light and darkness, and the idea of love as a guiding force which inspires her narrative. I do believe I am almost too old to have read this novel now. Although I can see its charm and the excitement of it, especially the Science Fiction elements of the novel, I have become used to more intricate plots, more detailed explanations and descriptions. However, the message at the heart of the novel still shines through the pages and captured my imagination. L'Engle creates some absolutely beautiful images which have made me want to keep reading the next novels in the Time Quintet series, of which this one is the first.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

I can understand the fascination with A Wrinkle in Time now! Meg is a delight and L'Engle is a great writer. Both the Science Fiction and YA elements of the novel work well and, surprisingly, they work beautifully together. I'd recommend this to both SciFi and YA fans.

1 comment:

  1. This was my absolute favorite when I was a young girl (way back in the '80s). I read it a thousand times. I think t's time for a re-read!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
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