A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. 2012 year marks the 50th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite books. There was even a whole blog tour about it, to go along with 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition. This has yummy extras, such as a brief bio and memories of L’Engle by her granddaughter, photos, a facsimile of the manuscript for the first chapter with corrections, and L’Engle’s Newbery acceptance speech.
I asked our youth fiction librarian to buy the special edition and went on hold for the CD book (not a new edition). The CD book came in first, and I listened to only a little bit before deciding that it wasn’t for me. It’s narrated by Barbara Caruso, whose narrations of the Anne of Green Gables books I have very much enjoyed. I loved her old-fashioned accent for those books, but even though Wrinkle is somewhat old at this point, one of the things that I love about it is that it feels contemporary. Having the old-fashioned voices took that feeling right out of it. Also, while I freely admit that I can’t create as many character voices as, say, Jim Dale or Katherine Kellgren, it was quite disconcerting to have Meg sound exactly the same as Anne and Charles Wallace speak with the same voice as Davy. My boy is excited to hear the story, too, but I’m not sure that seven is quite old enough to grasp the concepts behind it, and at this point, seeing as I wasn’t enjoying the narration, I might wait until I have time to read it to him myself.
When I was ten, I got into a fierce argument with my best friend about which was better, Wrinkle or A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I had not read the second and third books yet, but loved Wrinkle so much that I wouldn’t believe her that the second two were as good or better. I saw her point when I finally did get around to reading them, though Mari Ness’s thoughts on A Swiftly Tilting Planet felt like unwelcome disillusion, with criticisms of the book that I couldn’t really disagree with, despite having loved it so hard for since childhood. Though Robin McKinley’s Beauty still has to be my most re-read comfort book of all time, I am likely to pick up any of the first three time trilogy books during stressful times.
In case you haven’t read or don’t remember the book, here’s a brief summary of the plot: prickly teenager Meg Murry and her genius kid brother, Charles Wallace, meet up with the popular but surprisingly nice and very smart older boy Calvin in the woods near their property. They also meet with some strange old women who are clearly making a joke of pretending to be witches, but just as clearly really are much more than ordinary humans. These three – Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which (much to Microsoft Word’s chagrin, I am leaving the periods off of the “Mrs”, British-style, as L’Engle intended) – send the three children off to find Mr. Murry, a physicist who went missing while researching the tesseract some years ago. This journey that takes them to many other planets, including ones where the inhabitants are sightless but still have better knowledge of the universe than humans. They see a dark shadow of evil over earth and even more heavily over the planet of Camazotz, where Mr. Murry is being held captive by a disembodied brain called IT. In the end, it’s up to Meg to save the day, Meg who has been used to relying on Charles Wallace for comfort. There’s also a grand mix of theology (implicitly Christian) and science, both real and invented. I love the strong and memorable characters, Meg’s journey to independence and acceptance of herself, and the easy relationship between science and religion, increasingly rare these days. Some people may find the science of the tesseract a little fuzzy, and others say that Charles Wallace’s character could be a little more fleshed out. They may be right, but this is still a book that does so very much well, with a story and characters that stand on their own and give plenty to chew on afterwards. L’Engle’s world is one where the Dark is real and ever-present, filled with the knowledge that fight will be hard and still worth fighting, that love (to say it tritely) makes the world go around. Perhaps most importantly to my adolescent self, it shows an unpopular girl (in other ways rather unlike me) turning out ok and learning to accept herself.