Friday, March 24, 2017

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

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is one of the most perplexing books I have ever come across in my life!

I got through it in a matter of days, which is saying something for me, being the type of reader that likes to soak in material word by word, phrase by phrase, concept by concept.

I was immediately in love with Meg and Charles Wallace. I gotta admit, it was difficult to picture a five year old boy with the lexicon and intelligence of Charles's. But his unconditional love for his family and friends helped me to better see the child in him. From his tiny frame to his lovable personality to his witty remarks, he kind of reminds me of Freak from Freak, the Mighty.
In many ways, I can relate with Meg. First of all, her lack of confidence mirrors mine pretty much perfectly. Others' expectations of Meg's failure hit readers point blank in the insecurity bull's eye, though we all hate to admit it. I also admire L'Engle's decision to give Meg a tiny lack of common sense and some of the most basic kind of knowledge. This makes her at-times stupid answers amusing and engaging. These and her stubborness make me reminded of an older Junie B. Jones. The fact that she holds the key to the resolution gives all readers hope. We don't all need to be as ridiculously smart as Charles Wallace, nor as charismatic as Calvin. We don't have to be acculturative drones like the twins. (I think that is the very reason she made the unimportant, unheroic siblings twins: to show how conformative they are. That or so that they can be losers together!) We can be our own, welcoming our uselessness as much as we treasure our usefulness.

I was quite reminded of the first book of Narnia as I was world-hopping with Charles Wallace, Meg, and Calvin. I am just glad I did not need to feel the bone-breaking, numbing, coldness that the tesseract puts ordinary people through. The sight, sound, and smell of every world are vividly described. Even the culture, appearance, and personalities of the natives of each planet are unique. My personal favorite were the creatures of Ixchel. I love how they cannot see; I was scratching my own head trying to formulate the sense that is Sight into words. But they FEEL everything, and that makes all the difference. Even the resolution was a matter of feeling (love for Charles Wallace) and not seeing (the gift from Mrs. Which).

This storyline had me all over the place! I am used to picturing the books I am reading in my head like a movie. But the sequence of events, even dialogue and the characters' feelings were completely unpredictable in the classic way literature is allowed to be. What I could not get over, to the point where it bothered, nay, frustrated me, was that it was as if no one except Meg understood the concept of mind-control or bodily possession, as though the concept is extremely new and not construable. Or that such a thing would not be possible, as if traveling through time and space is. Like Meg, I would have known exactly what was happening, but this is mainly because of my fascination with sci-fi/fantasy, dystopian, supernatural horror, and mysterious thriller stories and films.

So, it is probably easy to tell, but there are more than one biblical nuance throughout the story. Some are not too noticable, such as the part when Meg was sitting down at the table with Aunt Beast and all the other beasts, the author writes: "She felt that she was being measured and found wanting" (L'Engle 189). This is a line from the famous story of Daniel, King Belshazaar, and the hand writing on the wall (Daniel 5:27). Put into other words: "You have not been doing right by your life." But this line was slipped into this scene in the novel so subtly, I almost missed the echo.

I enjoyed it! There were parts of it that were playful and jolly, making me smile (and I rarely respond to what I read with emotional faces). Other parts were heart-breaking and difficult to get through. And then there was this extraordinary element of something very sinister. It did not take L'Engle too many words, not even so many descriptive phrases, to make this uneasy feeling erupt in me as I read through the darker parts of the story. It gave me the feeling I had when I was reading Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, like although dark things can speak in formal language and be dressed in coat tails, somehow they are still twisted and insidious. I appreciate that this was mainly a book written for children, but the author is trying to inform [puzzled] adults about the world we live in and how to save our families. It is very "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, if you will: Even if Life sucks, at least we will live a sucky life together before we die. The one thing everyone has is family (and these come in many shapes, sizes, and situations); we just need to hold on to our families as hard as we can and never let go the way Meg never gave up on her light and love, her baby brother Charles Wallace.

{I am still mind-blown. And still upset that the dad couldn't do more. What's a dad for if he cannot make you feel safe from evil?}

1 comment:

  1. Reading this review brought back a lot of great memories of this book. Thanks for sharing this!