Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time

I’m taking a mini blog break but instead of having no posts at all, I’m sharing some content that originally ran on another blog I had. I’ve updated the posts, but if you’ve been reading me for a long time, they may still be familiar.

A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet) by Madeleine L’Engle

Despite being a voracious reader growing up and loving fantasy books, somehow I’d never picked it up L’Engle’s classic, Newbery-award-winning book A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet). My husband hates fantasy stories but he’d even read it – it was an assigned text for one of his classes. I’d never prioritized it enough to get to it as an adult, and likely never would have read it hadn’t been the assigned book for my book club.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I liked the character of Meg quite a bit. I liked her younger brother Charles Wallace well enough. I didn’t feel like I got to know Calvin that well, but he was an interesting character. However, nothing about the book got me super excited to find out more about the characters, and what happened to them in later books in the series.

I felt like there were too many occasions where instead of really explaining something, L’Engle instead had one of the “wiser” characters express frustration that the concepts just couldn’t really be explained in words. Jumbled bits of half-explanations were almost given, with the caveat that “There’s some things we just aren’t meant to understand.” It’s okay though, Charles Wallace has such a prodigious intellect that he understands and tells Meg that it’s alright. (yes, that’s sarcasm.)

Some of my frustrations with the book may just be because it was so groundbreaking, things I like and take for granted now were something rare and special, like having a girl be the main character and hero in a science fiction/fantasy novel. Maybe it only seemed so formulaic to me because it set the formula that many other books have followed?

L’Engle includes one of my most-loathed contrivances in children’s literature, the wise adult dismissing children with the equivalent of “you aren’t old enough/mature enough to understand, but meanwhile go off and save the world because you’re the only one(s) who can. You just won’t know what you’re facing.” But of course the wise adults have super-powers and can magically appear just when they’re most needed and/or provide some sort of prop with special qualities that can save the heroes.

There are so many times when I read books that are wildly praised and wonder what’s all the fuss, and this is definitely one of those times. The book was ok, but in no way is it even close to being one of my favorite books of all time, and I know of many people for whom that is the case. I do wonder if I’d read it as a child, would I have loved it more and would it be one of my favorites still?

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Publisher’s Description:
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 sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal..

Book Details

Title: A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Category: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

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Comments

  1. Hmm. I did read and love it first as a child, but I thought it held up well to re-reading as an adult–but there certainly could be some gloss to it, having first read it when I was of an age to REALLY IDENTIFY with Meg, ha. Charles Wallace is definitely the sort of character that was somewhat annoying even as a kid, and whom I probably would not care for at all if I had first encountered as an adult.

    There are a lot of themes in these books that work their way through your consciousness later, if that makes sense, and means they hold up really well to reading over and over again. But by the same token, they’re probably still best read as children, because there is a certain amount of overt didactism to them. Sort of like the Chronicles of Narnia or the Hobbit–as much as love and value them, they are children’s stories and I don’t know if they hold up so well if you read them for the first time as an adult, even though they’re worthwhile reading no matter your age.

    I think some of the others in the quintet are better–Many Waters, which is a story about the twins, is one of those ones that has always stayed with me, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet is amazing. And you get more of Calvin’s history in that one, too, if I remember correctly.

    I think you’re probably right that the story was so groundbreaking at the time has been imitated so much that it seems trite now. There’s definitely some truth to that. I know a lot of feminist-type sci fi/fantasy writers cite L’Engle as a huge influence in their own work, if not directly than at least for opening the door for other girl-hero novels.

    • I’m now leaning towards reading the rest of the set, simply because it is such an influential book in the field. And your comments about those other two help make that prospect more appealing!

      And I so completely agree with your entire second paragraph.

  2. I first read this as a very young child and it totally captivated me. So much I went on to read every single book she wrote for kids and then now as an adult have been making my way through her other works. I think you’re probably right that there’s something about reading it as a child. I so identified with Meg (and in other series her character Vicky) because they were SMART girls. None of that wispy weakness so many books aimed at girl readers were offering.

    Now I’m curious to re-read it with adult eyes!

  3. Great review! Oh my gosh, I had NO IDEA how old this book was until you said what year it won the award. Holy crap! I read this back when I was a kid and thought it was only a little older than I was. I don’t really remember liking it that much back then, though, so I don’t think I’ll ever re-read it. But I think that it’s a great experiment for an adult to do who never read it as a kid.

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