Madeleine L’Engle, 1962
“It was a dark and stormy night. “
I have an affinity for nearly all sub-genres of midcentury fiction, but my favorite author for that time period is Madeleine L’Engle – and my favorite L’Engle book is A Wrinkle in Time. This post is as much a love letter to the author and her characters, as it is a review. The iconic opening line was my invitation into the world of the Murry family, and I accepted the invitation with enthusiasm. As a child I stayed to visit for a while, and I return to that world every autumn when I open the signed copy that lives in my nightstand for another read.
A children’s story (ostensibly) which won the 1963 Newbery medal, this is the adventure of Meg Murry, an awkward adolescent with a tendency toward genius, her little brother Charles Wallace, a sweet, empathic, almost psychic child with an off-the-chart IQ, and their friend Calvin, a conventional teenager with his own latent gifts. The trio is called by unlikely guardians to take up the universal fight between the powers of good and evil by saving the Murry children’s father, who is imprisoned by the evil IT on the planet Camazotz, far, far away.
Many have speculated on what IT represents, and one is tempted to associate IT with Communism, especially considering the time in which the book was written. Honestly, the way IT and the Shadow are characterized – it’s not hard to make that conclusion. In a broader sense though, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are fighting for freedom of expression and for the recognition of the beauty and goodness inherent in each being. This becomes more clear upon reading the remaining four novels in L’Engle’s Time Quintet.
If you enjoy classic children’s fiction, read this book and the rest of the companion titles mentioned. Once you read it (or if you have already read it), I would love to hear what you think.
Reading, at its heart, is such a solitary pursuit. After falling in love with a book as a child, pre-internet, with no idea of the book’s fame or history and no one to share it with, it’s so gratifying to learn that others have been falling in love with it for years. Thanks, Ms. L’Engle.