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American Literature Month: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine l’Engle ** (Classics Club #38)

The 38th book on my Classics Club list is prolific author Madeleine l’Engle’s children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time.  Most people have read this already, I am sure, but for some reason, I never got around to it during my childhood.  Rather than purchase a copy, I decided to borrow it from my local library, as I really wasn’t sure whether the tale would be to my taste or not.  I tend to steer clear of time travel and science fiction in all guises, but I’ve heard from a few trusted reviewers that A Wrinkle in Time is well worth a read, and decided to give it a go regardless. 

First published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time deals with the disappearance of a young girl’s father, a scientist, whom nobody seems to know the location of: ‘Charles and Meg, and their friend Calvin, travel through a ‘wrinkle in time’ in search of their missing father.  But can they beat the evil forces they meet on their dangerous journey through time and space?’  All that the Murry family knows is that ‘”he’s on a secret and dangerous mission… [and] he won’t be able to – to communicate with us for a while.  And they’ll give us news as soon as they have it.”‘

Margaret Murry, known as Meg, is a typical child protagonist, I suppose; she is picked on at school, has various issues continually preying upon her, and often gets into trouble with her teachers.  Her brother, six year old Charles Wallace, is a peculiar construct; he is bright and unusual.  He did not begin to speak aloud until he was four years old, and tends to remain mute around a lot of people: ‘”Thinking I’m a moron gives people something to feel smug about…  Why should I disillusion them?”‘.  His main struggle is ‘how to be like other children around him when he knows he is much smarter than all of them’.  Their friend Calvin, too, is beset by problems; he is the youngest of eleven children, and finds it difficult to fit into his own family: ‘”That’s the funny part of it.  I love them all, and they don’t give a hoot about me.  Maybe that’s why I call when I’m not going to be home.  Because I care.  Nobody else does.  You don’t know how lucky you are to be loved”‘.

In the extra material included within the Puffin edition which I read, l’Engle’s inspiration for the story has been written about.  She was ‘passionate in her search for answers to the big questions about the universe and after she read Albert Einstein’s theories of time and space, [this story] began to take shape.  Her aim was to make a world that was “creative and yet believable” by setting the magical aspects of the stories in actual theories of physics’.

A Wrinkle in Time is quite moralistic and conceptual, and even profound in places.  Meg’s mother, a scientist, for example, says: ‘”I think that with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanation”‘.  In this manner, there is a lot of food for thought within the novel’s pages.  The story is nicely written, and l’Engle moves it along well.  It is rather peculiar, granted, but due to the genre, I expected as much.

Elements of A Wrinkle in Time were not really my thing at all, and I doubt that I would have enjoyed it as a child either.  With all of the scientific information which has been included, it felt as though I was reading a textbook at times.  In places, the story seemed to be a little too grown-up for its intended child audience; it is a strange work to classify in that manner.

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