Friday 3 October 2014

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

I read A Wrinkle in Time as a child (many wrinkles ago) and failed, back then, to understand why it was considered a modern day classic by my teachers.

As a budding mathematical, rational 10 yr old I found the religious references obvious & off-putting (the very same reason I struggled with many of the Narnia books as well.) 

In my mind, all this time, I thought A Wrinkle in Time was a religious parable with some time travelling kids and an old house on a dark & stormy hill, but not, ultimately, my cup of tea. 

About 12 yrs ago, I reread the Narnia series & thoroughly enjoyed them, especially the first three stories in the series. 

The stories, however, still caused me to laugh ruefully at the blatant religious parallels. As an adult, though, I was less indignant & more tolerant of the preachy tone than I was as a child. As an adult, I was happy to go along for the fantastical story ride & I appreciated the wonderful characters created by Lewis.

I expected a similar experience with A Wrinkle in Time.

But, oh, how I struggled!

The fantasy & philosophy were fine - the maths and science for girls - great!  The big words and philosophy quoting Mrs Who - loved it! 
But the characters were soooo one-dimensional (to use L'Engle's own terms) and so very annoying. 

Calvin's constant "protective gestures" towards Meg grated. They seemed to nullifying L'Engle's 'girls can do anything, even maths and science' approach with an 'as long as they have the strong arm of a man to lean on as they do it'!

Good versus evil, light versus the dark, love & kindness versus individualism are common themes in a lot of books, but in this story, they were so wrapped up in the religious connotations that I often found it a bitter pill to swallow. 

I dislike being force fed someone else's beliefs just as much now as when I was a child. 

It's a curious thing, though, rereading a book from your childhood. 
Memory is not as infallible as we like to believe, but our likes and dislikes often remain the same. I found A Wrinkle in Time to be a heavy handed, humourless story then and now.

As a child I couldn't tell you why I didn't like to read a lot of fantasy or science-fiction, but now I realise it's because a lot of science fiction/fantasy has religious overtones. It's not the science, the maths, the politics or the philosophising that I shy away from, but the heavy hand of god! 

L'Engle won the Newbery Medal in 1963 for A Wrinkle in Time. Sadly, time has not been kind to this story. The language & attitudes have dated which makes it difficult for modern readers to access the universal themes that it explores. 

I've always felt a little guilty for not liking this book as much as everyone thought I should. At least now, I know why.

A thousand apologies if this was your favourite childhood read. 

I would love to know what it was that appealed to you or what it is that you remember fondly about this book, since I have been so free in sharing my dislikes!


  1. Anonymous3/10/14

    Inspired by your enthusiasm for children's books....I ordered the winner of the Dutch Gold Pen 2014 ( de Gouden Griffel). I will get the book today and hope to have a post + foto's on the blog soon. Book: Het raadsel van alles wat leeft' by Jan Paul Schutten. ( The Riddel of everything that lives) I read another 'first prize winner' in the Dutch Adult genre and it was a fiasco of a book. I hope to prove that children's books offer wonderful literature that can at times surpass the hyped books in the "commercial adult market'!

    1. I hope your enthusiasm for children's books continues after this experiment.

      There are so many wonderful stories for younger readers & I'm very grateful that my work allows me to explore this. Mr Books has a theory that children's authors are freer (or feel freer) to play around with genre's & experiment in a way that many adult authors don't or won't or can't. By flying under the 'adult' radar they can avoid the commercial hype perhaps?

      I look forward to your reviews Nancy :-)

  2. I think there are books that just don't click with us. Whether we are adults of children, something about them rubs us the wrong way. I always feel guilty when that happens to me with a beloved classic.

    1. I think I'm trying to get round my guilt by rereading some of them as an adult to work out what it was that 'rubbed me the wrong way' back then.

  3. I'm reading one of my childhood favourites at the moment (and struggling), so I definitely know how it is. I didn't read Wrinkle in Time as a kid, and have now read it twice as an adult, the first time I really didn't get it, the second time I liked it better.

    It's funny how rereading changes the experience completely.

    1. I'm curious about which childhood favourite of yours you are struggling with - blog post to follow I guess??

  4. I'm always worried approaching books that others have loved, as one can sometimes feel that the fault in not liking lies in oneself. I have been curious about this one, for instance, and I feel that you've provided me with a good balance of opinion now! I shall think about reading this one, as I don't particularly like religious themes.


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