Sunday, January 3, 2010

A visit with old friends

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books as a child. Growing up, I read it and its sequels over and over, but it must be at least 20 years since I last read this oh so formative novel. It was librarian Nancy Pearl mentioning this classic on NPR recently that made me want to rush out and re-read the book--which is exactly what I did.

Re-reading A Wrinkle in Time--more than 30 years after I first read it--I had several surprises. First, a lot of what I remembered was actually from the sequel, A Wind at the Door. I didn't remember this story well at all, but it sort of came back as I read. And second, I didn't love it the way I did when I was a girl. Don't get me wrong, I liked it a lot. But as a child I loved these books. I can still see why, but it's a different experience and I'm reading with different eyes.

The story concerns the Murray family. Mr. and Mrs. Murray are both scientists, but Mr. Murray has had to leave his family because of his work for the government. The family hasn't heard from him in over a year. That is the situation as the novel opens on the proverbial "dark and stormy night." The eldest Murray child, Meg, winds up in the kitchen that night with her mother and Charles Wallace, her youngest brother. They are indulging in a comforting mug of late-night cocoa when an unexpected visitor shows up.

Mrs. Whatsit is the first of a series of bizarre characters with bizarre names. Before she leaves the Murrays' that night, she provides a clue that she just might know where Mr. Murray is. The following day, Meg and Charles Wallace plan to seek out Mrs. Whatsit and demand further information. Along the way, they meet Meg's schoolmate Calvin O'Keefe who seems to be somehow destined to join them. So begins a great, weird, adventure through time and space.

I will always have great affection for L'Engle's novels. Even though this one no longer has quite the same effect on me, I'm sorely tempted to continue re-reading the series and L'Engle's other works. These are some of my oldest friends, and it's been far too long since my last visit.


  1. I'm right with you on this Susan. I reread this in the last year or so and was disappointed. I'm not sure I ever read the sequels, but I know that when I read this the first time I thought it was magical.

  2. I also recently read a Wrinkle in Time and am currently working on the sequel. I am a younger blogger (which doesn't mean your old, it means I'm a teen). I understand why you loved this book and how upon reflection it seems different. I have read soooo many books that are more likely than not, modeled off of this story so that it seems, forgive me for saying this, NORMAL. She was probably a revolutionary writer for her time and style of writing but now, after so many people have been inspired and have replicated her plot in their own way, it has become special, but no longer magical. Though it won't have the effect it used to, however, this book will never die.

  3. Hey Sparkly,

    It was awfully nice of you to stop by and share your thoughts. I'm sure you're right that there have been lots and lots of derrivative books written since this one was first published. You've probably read more of them than I have. And I also agree that A Wrinkle in Time is a book for the ages. The language may seem a bit dated at this point, but it really is a classic that will be read for decades, if not centuries.

    I'm not sure you're right about why reading the book again seemed different. Not to be all obnoxious, but things just change as you get older, for better or worse. On the better side, I'm better educated, more widely read, and more sophisticated now. On the worse side, things in general are less magical, I have less imagination and less of a sense of wonder, I know more of the bad stuff in the world, and perhaps worst of all, I'm much more narrow in what I choose to read.

    I'm not sure the adult me would choose to read this book, which is a little science fiction-y for my taste. I sure am glad the child me was a lot more open-minded, and that I can remember the things that she loved. And that even though my perspective has changed a bit, those childhood loves still give me pleasure.

    BTW, did you happen to see the review for When You Reach Me right above this one on my blog? You might want to check it out. It's a great book!