Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Review: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle



Title: A Wrinkle In Time
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Original Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Original Publication Date: January 1962
Source: won from Shannon at Giraffe Days

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

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?


My Review:

Remember Banned Book Week not so long ago?  During that celebration, I won a giveaway hosted by Shannon over at Giraffe Days.  She was giving away one banned book of the winner's choice.  I couldn't decide, so I sent Shannon a list of 3 finalists and asked her to surprise me with one.  So you know what she did?  She sent me ALL THREE.  Like a BOSS.  And A Wrinkle In Time was one of them.  (The other two are The Color Purple and Flowers for Algernon...reviews to come!)

In the end, moral of the story?  Shannon is awesome, and so is this book.

I know I'm probably, at the age of 29, the last person in my generation to read this.  Which makes me sad, because I wish I could have experienced A Wrinkle In Time at the age of 10!  Remembering my love for Matilda, The Phantom Tollbooth, and the like, I know this would have made an impression on my little brain.  But instead, I enjoyed it as an adult, and that will have to be enough.  Fantasy is not my preferred genre nowadays, but I think middle-grade fantasy has a lot more to offer, because it's written to an audience that can appreciate it with more innocent eyes.

What did I love about this book the most?  The deeper meanings!  There are so many, and they made it pretty clear why this book is often taught in schools.  Good wins over evil.  You can get help from others, but sometimes you have to do things yourself--even if they're hard.  Freedom requires more choices and effort, but is better than settling for conformity:

"'You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet?  A strict form, but freedom within it?'
'Yes,' Mrs. Whatsit said.  'You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.  What you say is completely up to you.'"

As a whole, the book is allegorical without feeling overly preachy.

The sci-fi aspects of it were a tad confusing, so I could see that being a little hard for kids to get through.  But the idea of "tessering" (the method of time-travel used in the book) is explained easily enough that the other information (about first, second, third, fourth, and fifth dimensions...phew) doesn't need to be understood well in order to follow the plot.

I was a little surprised at the religious undertones throughout the book, especially because it is taught so widely in schools.  However, I wouldn't say this is a strictly Christian novel.  Yes, there are a few quoted Bible verses, and some of the characters are clearly meant to represent the devil, or angels, or maybe even God, but it's written in a way that I think other religions could easily input their own belief systems within the lessons of the text.  I think it teaches you to have faith and love--but it doesn't tell you that there is one right way to do that.  AWIT has often been banned for being too religious, or (on the flip side) anti-Christian, and I think it's silly to pin the book that way when what's it really teaching kids is to be NICE to each other and BELIEVE in themselves.  I don't think that's very threatening, do you?

One final note, about the characters.  Meg, the main character, is pretty great, but her younger brother Charles Wallace is awesome.  I want to take that kid home and just hug him.  Or maybe name my second-born after him, I don't know.  Either way, he is a very precocious little five-year-old, and his dialogue was so much fun to read.  Definitely going on my list of all-time favorite literary characters.

So, overall, A Wrinkle In Time gets a big thumbs-up from me.  It's truly timeless--nothing in the book let on to the fact that it was written 50 years ago.  It manages to be entertaining, fantastical, and thoughtful at the same time.  I wish Small Fry was old enough to read it now, but you can bet I'll be putting it in his hands in about 9 years or so.

7 comments:

  1. Seems to be a nice read!
    And about Flowers for Algernon: I read it last year and it was quiet enjoyable! Very interesting!

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  2. Oh wow, Shannon sounds amazing! That was so sweet of her to do!

    Man, I freaking loved this one as a kid, but I reread this earlier this year and I'm not in love anymore. I still think this one is good, but it doesn't have the magic for me anymore.

    Sadly, I read the next two books in the series and had to call it quits, though I wanted to make it through all five, because the religious undertones get much stronger, perhaps to the extent of becoming OVERTONES, and just generally weird. They made me uncomfortable. Plus, in one of them, you find out that Calvin has this great job or whatever, and Meg is a homemaker, even though she's a genius too. That really upset me.

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  3. @boeklover, thanks for letting me know! I can't wait to read that one.

    @Christina, I'm glad you mentioned that, because I was going back and forth over whether I should read the next in the series or not. If the religion stuff got much stronger, I think I would have a hard time with it. I didn't mind it here because it was so easily (at least in my mind) applicable to a variety of faiths, but anything beyond that would turn me off. And Meg as homemaker? With all those great math skills? UGH!

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  4. I admit to not having read this one yet, but at least I own it so I will get to it one day -- based on your review I should probably plan on reading it sooner rather than later.

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  5. And you know--I even OWN this one. Geez. I remember being in 4th or 5th grade and seeing the book posters on the wall for this book and being so sad that my class didn't get to read it. I've always associated it with being too smart and I'm not sure why at 31 I still have those feelings. ;) So no, you're not the last of this generation to read this book. So glad you loved it.

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  6. I love, love this book. I haven't ever read the rest of the books in the series but I want to.

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  7. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has waited so long to read it! I think it would have been most interesting to read it in grade school, and then re-read it now. Very different experiences, I'd imagine. I want to re-read Matilda and The Phantom Tollbooth for the same reasons!

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