Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Book Review, YA & MG Time Travel Challenge and Classic Children’s Book Challenge

Wrinkle in TimeThis is one of the Puffin Modern Classics series and unusually I got the paperback, which was marginally cheaper than the Kindle edition.  It says on the front cover ‘a masterpiece of science fiction’ and for a long time I wondered, as I felt the start was over-written, too flowery.  Then I got well and truly drawn into the plot, and despite shades of 1984 and a few other alternate universe stories of the 1960s great SF writers, I concluded the cover was right.  This is a masterpiece.

We find Meg Murry at school or home with her mother and brothers.  At first it is hard to tell that the youngest brother is not an adult.  He is strange, but this strangeness is something treasured by his parents and beautifully explained – as are Meg’s own foibles – as something he’ll grow into.  I remembered one young friend of mine who similarly spoke in the most complete and grammatically perfect sentences from a very young age, and accepted Charlie Wallace (Meg’s brother) from then on.

Acceptance is one of the many themes in this book.  Acceptance of who you are, and of people’s differences.  As we follow Meg, Charlie Wallace and their friend Calvin to the planet of Camazotz in search of Meg’s father, we learn, as do they, that our differences are not only important to us, but also to our society, and even our world.

The book splits fairly evenly into two parts: understanding Meg at home with her mother and brothers, and the strangeness and mysteries in their lives, and the quest to find her father, through the Wrinkle in Time.  There is a fair amount of science – from psychology through to quantum physics – in bite-sized chunks in this book, which I enjoyed.  It’s not essential to enjoying the plot, but I reckon a good many young readers will enjoy it too.  The ending is a little cliched nowadays, but it wouldn’t have been when the story was written.

One part I particularly enjoyed was the interaction with some planetary inhabitants who have not developed sight.  Having recently debated with myself whether I could adequately include a deaf character in my books, I was fascinated not only by the story and descriptions of the people, but also the consequences for society, morals, and ways of doing things that would result from living without sight.  I liked the way these beings concluded that sight was a limitation for Meg and her friends.

A Wrinkle in Time is only the first in the Time series.  I enjoyed it immensely, but I don’t think I’ll follow up on the others.  Although it has made me thoughtful; I’m still pondering some parts of the adventure.  Maybe I’ll look them up later.  It is a compelling book, one that I recommend highly, and it is definitely a classic.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

PS It was published in 1962 so is not strictly eligible for the Classic challenge, but that challenge is in itself not strict, and I think it’s justified as a 50 year-old book.


36 thoughts on “Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

  1. This book is sitting right next to my computer. I don’t remember ever reading it and DD has been intrigued. Thanks for the great review.
    Cool Mom for
    Stanley & Katrina

  2. It’s definitely dated, but L’Engle was a good writers, and never afraid of being controversial.

    She also had a LOT of trouble getting a publisher for Wrinkle, because it was thought that the writing was too difficult for children.

    • You know, when I read your post today, I thought how lucky you are to have all those books at your disposal! Thanks for commenting 🙂

      • Are you talking about the books at the library, or the ones here at the house that are going to crush me when the next big earthquake hits?? 😀

  3. I’ve also read everything she wrote (I own a lot of it), and enjoyed them. Some are thought-provoking, some are good reads, and some are a bit too aimed at 15-year-old girls, but they’re all good. Her book on writing (Walking on Water) is about being a Christian artist, but a lot of what she has to say resonates regardless of one’s beliefs.

  4. Madeleine L’Engle has been one of my favorite authors for many years. I have read nearly everything she wrote and own many of her books. Her memoir about her marriage is a beautiful story, Two-Part Invention.

    I remember reading that Wrinkle in Time was rejected 39 times. I read the others in the trilogy and loved them all.

    She also wrote a delightful children’s book called “The Other Dog.”

    One thing I always appreciated about her writing was how she included her love for Bach, and astronomy, and math in her stories.


    • Well, I can’t, because it was a standard joke in my family that we told a story … which went like this.
      It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind was howling horribly, and the chief of the brigands said to Antonio, “Tell us a story” – and so Antonio began…
      ”It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind was howling horribly, and the chief of the brigands said to Antonio, ‘Tell us a story’ – and so Antonio began…”
      etc… 😀

  5. Thanks for the kind words you left at my blog!
    I have one of those ‘1001 books you must read’ lists, and my mum was thrilled when she saw this one on it. She had read it as a child and not thought about it for years, so my sister got it for her birthday last year, along with a few others,

    Inane Ramblings

  6. I LOVED this whole trilogy. I think I read it as a young adult and even though I didn’t understand all the science, I was fascinated. Great W pick 🙂

  7. Thanks for a great review Jemima. I have this on my must read one day list so I was delighted to hear your thoughts on it. The challenge has been fantastic, I have enjoyed reading along, cheers Jules

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  9. I can’t remember if I’ve read this book or not, but I do know that I watched the movie with my kids (leaving my daughter utterly terrified!) It’s interesting what you say about writing a character who is deaf or who has no sight. I imagine it would take a lot of research including interviews with people who have those experiences to really have appropriate insight into their lives. But then, authors take many liberties making assumptions about people whose shoes they have never walked in. I always get a little “put off” when I read books with a female character who has suffered domestic abuse or incest (for example) when the author is a male. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – I had a really difficult time with that one.

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop! 🙂

    • Thanks, Renee. It’s more interesting because I had deaf friends at primary school, knew and worked with deaf people in an ordinary office, also worked with a blind guy for a year – but when I came to think about different perceptions and ways of thinking, I realised I knew nothng.

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  11. This is one of my all-time favorites! At 9 or 10, I bet my best friend that the rest of the series couldn’t be as good, only to eat my words when I’d actually read them. I still re-read them in times of stress.

    • Thanks! I wasn’t sure whether to read the others – you have convinced me I’m missing out if I don’t 🙂

      • Well… I’d say try, but don’t be afraid to stop if they’re not your cup of tea. I found that L’Engle is nearly always exactly mine – so much to think about even if you disagree with her ideas, and she always manages to find hope even in desperate situations. But many people can’t take her, so I’d hate to give a categorical answer. 🙂

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