Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

awit-coverI first read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle when I was in middle school. This is a time when I started exploring the library on my own and was finding myself ending up in the SFF section often. I read A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels alongside works like The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede and The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings. It’s these books that I think of as my foundation for what would eventually become a great love of the genre. And so it is also, since  more than a quarter of a century has gone by, that I think on these early books with great nostalgia. I often wonder if they will hold up to an adult eye. And so, when my bookclub voted to read A Wrinkle in Time because of the movie coming out, I was happy to dive in, but also a little curious as to what Adult!Me would think about it.

 

Description from goodreads:

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 little brother Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

I listened to this on audio and it was a fairly short book (about six hours). One of the great things about the book now is that there is an afterward by the Madeleine L’Engle’s eldest granddaughter where she talks about her grandmother’s life, the writing of A Wrinkle in Time, and her grandmother’s thoughts on the book and people’s reactions to it over the years. I found all of that really interesting and I’d urge fans of the book to find a copy with the afterward at the very least. One of the things I found most interesting was that the author had been in a bit of a slump, but had at the time begun reading all sorts of books and papers being published by theoretical physicists and was inspired by that to create a story based around science and time-travel.

A Wrinkle in Time is a book with many different themes explored throughout it’s few pages, and yet it never feels crowded with ideas as some of these with resonate with the reader more than others. There are some Christian themes that are present, the presence of God in the text is more obvious to this adult reader than it was to my middle school self. Even so, I don’t feel like those aspects of it ever come off as preachy at all. One of the fascinating things about this is that A Wrinkle in Time has consistently been one of the top banned book in school libraries in the U.S. since it’s publication because some Christian groups are against the ‘magic’ and witchcraft and liberal Christianity displayed. While others have condemned it for being too Christian.  Hah!

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is the way that it prizes individuality. Meg, the main character, is at that age where girls often start to worry about fitting in with others. And Meg is worried and unhappy because she doesn’t feel like she fits in at all. This is evident from the beginning of the book and throughout the rest of it others reinforce to her that she is special the way she is, and that conformity is disturbing. Be yourself! That is my biggest take away from A Wrinkle in Time, and it also explains why I liked it so much when I was growing up–because I never fit in either.

This theme is not really subtle at all, but it is brought forth with a deft hand. Calvin first tell’s Meg how happy he is to have found Meg and her family because they are different, he feels different too, and this gives him a place to feel welcome for being who he really is instead of how he is seen (as a popular kid at school). One of the Mrs W’s tells Meg that she is special the way she is. And then we land on that strange planet where their father must be rescued and he’s being held by a powerful being that is basically literal conformity like being in the heart of the Borg. Once again we realize how important it is, and how much happier it will make us, to just be ourselves.

Overall, revisiting this story was great for me. I brought with me into it a new perspective and that was interesting. The story does hold up to an adult eye, very well. And I don’t think it feels dated at all. With a couple of very small exceptions one could easily read this and think it is taking place today vs when it was written in 1960. Further, I think there is something here for all ages to enjoy. 4/5 stars.

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