Friday, October 05, 2007

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle

L'Engle's love of ideas and literature and her keen interest in the spiritual world are evident in this book. A character who quotes Euripides and Shakespeare, a seraphim who takes a purposefully vague name in order to reveal itself to humans, and discussions of the fifth dimension and the existence of tesseracts all have their place in this story of three children battling against the forces of evil to save Mr. Murry, the space traveler.
L'Engle shows a perceptive understanding of children and teenagers. Meg struggles with her faults of anger and outspokenness until she discovers that, properly channeled, these can be strengths as well. Charles Wallace, a genius with a highly developed empathic sense, learns that his pride in his understanding can be his downfall. And Calvin, the lanky and lonely teenager, finds a true home with the Murry family.
The characters of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which are fascinating. As angels, they guide the children in their search and rescue of Mr. Murry. They reminded me of a good version of the three witches in Macbeth, who keep behind the scenes but are always close at hand. The scene of the seraphim singing on the planet Uriel reminded me of the angels and saints surrounding the throne and praising God, singing without ceasing.
At the end of book, when Mr. Murry returns with Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace, L'Engle describes the presence of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which as 'a flooding of joy and love that was even greater and deeper than the joy and love which were already there'. These three women have shown Meg and the others that the way to win over evil is to love. Evil stamps out originality and makes everyone and everything into a cookie-cutter sameness. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and alone can triumph over the mesmerizing power of 'It'.
L'Engle is a universalist, and so I can't quite agree with her that love, in the sense that she is using it, is the answer to everything. But she makes an excellent point in this story that love is one of God's greatest gifts to us and is much more powerful force than evil.
I highly recommend the Crosswick Journals, which chronicle several consecutive summers in the life of L'Engle and her family. She interweaves stories of daily life with her own musings on fascinating ideas and spiritual concepts. A Circle of Quiet, the first journal, is the best.


At 10:35 AM, Blogger Carrie said...

Is it October already!? NO!!!!

I have this book on my bookshelf so I will now go pull it out and read it. Yowee.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger calon lan said...

I love this book. Yes, it has some rather wonky spiritual elements, but I think L'Engle does a good job of making science fiction accessible for children. Good choice!

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the series and recently started reading aloud this book to my 7 year old. About half way in, it became too much for him and so we are putting it back on the bookshelf for now.

My son is maybe more sensitive than lots of other boys his age, but judging by his reaction, I'd have to say the audience for this book is upper elementary? What do you think?

Stopping by from the Saturday Review, by the way.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

I wish I'd read this book as a child. (My mother didn't approve of L'Engle, alas.) I read the whole series last year and enjoyed them very much, but the plots seemed a little too thin and the morals a little too obvious. But would have LOVED them when I was younger.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger calon lan said...

I definitely think upper elementary, Karen. It's a little too heavy for younger children who might not be ready to take on such an unusual alternative universe. Fantasy this is not.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Framed said...

I just read this book for the first time this year and promptly went out and bought the rest of the series.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger elrj said...

Are they really making this into a movie??? I've loved this book for a long time. Might be time to read it again...

At 8:17 AM, Blogger elrj said...

Darn you, Ani, for posting this fabulous review FIVE DAYS after it is officially time to read this book!
Your promptness reminds me how behind I am in my own life.
But you know I love you... and I will not pretend to beat you to the next one.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

Ok I just finished it this afternoon. I like that it didn't take long to read because I thought it was incredibly weird.

I read it without wanting to concentrate on any spiritual message because I just wanted to enjoy the story. However, without it, the story is almost nonsensical. It'd just odd-ballish. So I eventually HAD to start paying attention to L'Engle's message. But only then at the end.

Did anyone else identify with Meg? If so, raise your hand. =)

*hand raised enthusiastically!!!*

I liked how she used the message that perfect love casts out all fear, which is something that I've been meditating on quite a bit these days. It was just a message set in a very odd story. Oh have I said that already?

Yes, I thought it was odd. Didn't really connect or click with me. I can't say I'd read anymore in the series (if it is, in fact, a series?) but that I would give L'Engle another try in some other format.

At any rate, I'm glad I read it but, like I said, I wouldn't read more.

At 7:29 PM, Blogger Ani said...

I've been musing on the difference between L'Engle's writing and C.S. Lewis'. Lewis's theology leads to a story of a glorious lion (who, as Mr. Beaver says, is 'not safe, but good'), while L'Engle's story ends with the wonder of love and a subtle instruction that to change teh world or be victorious we must go out an practice this love. I don't think this sort of 'love' is the answer. Yes, Christian love is unique, and a powerful force. But L'Engle's love is love without strength.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Alaina said...

This was a favorite of mine in junior high, and I enjoyed reading it again. I always get teary during that last scene on Camazotz with Meg and Charles Wallace!

At 4:16 AM, Blogger Kathleen Marie said...

I recall really enjoying this book as a child- I think I was 9 or 10 when I read it. I encouraged my children to read it as well. Thanks for the post.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

Carrie~Try her Meet the Austins, and perhaps others in that series. (That's the only one I read.) They're just a normal modern family story, but nicely done. (Well, OK, what I think should be a normal family, but probably most modern people wouldn't. :-) )


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