A Wrinkle in Time is a novel for young-adults written by Madeleine L’Engle. It was published in 1962 as is often regarded as one of the must-read books for young people. The story follows three children, Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, a sister and brother, and Calvin O’Keefe, their friend. They meet three mysterious elderly ladies and go on an adventure through time and space. The end goal is to find out what happened to Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, a scientist who went missing. Overall the story boasts great characters, exciting new worlds and some interesting sci-fi concepts such as the tesseract.
Margaret “Meg” Murry is the main protagonist of the book and I loved her from the start. She is gifted in maths but feels inadequate in many other aspects of her life. She feels like she does not really fit in her family or among her peers. Despite these feelings she is fiercely loyal to those she carers about. Meg is brave, stubborn, passionate and dedicated. She has faults but works to overcome them to save the ones she loves. She was a girl who took action, in a time when this was not encouraged by wider society. I felt a connection with Meg, her self-consciousness about her appearance and self-doubt are traits that anyone who has been a teenage girl will recognise. She is relatable and most importantly you can’t help but want her to succeed.
Dr Kate Murry is another wonderful character. She isn’t just a Mammy but she is a scientist Mammy! Kate is an accomplished microbiologist and even has a lab in her house. Kate is holding it all together, her family, and her scientific work as she dealt with her own feelings around her husband’s disappearance. I would have loved more Kate and thankfully she features more in later books in the series.
Three other great characters in A Wrinkle in Time are the Mrs Ws. They present to us first as odd old ladies, shunned from society as sadly elderly women throughout history often are. However, they are actually immortal characters with a very cool twist to their origins, too cool to spoil here so read the book. Also elderly is quite an understatement. They are fabulous revolutionaries who can travel through time and space. In additional the Mrs Ws all have their special quirks, Mrs Whatsit is the friendly, child-like one, Mrs Who speaks in quotations and Mrs Which is the wise leader who gives clues and assistance. So much more awesome than a pop-band.
This is a young adult book but it is popular with adults. One of the reasons I think so is because of the discussions of maths, science and chemistry without hampering the imagination. The concepts are delivered straight-up and even though the main characters are children they discuss ideas which are fascinating. Charles Wallace in particular has lots of this type of dialogue and I can see why he is so popular in the sci-fi community.
The worlds that L’Engle creates in the book are wonderful. On earth she paints the scenes of a warm and welcoming family home complete with a science lab and a derelict, tatty, spooky home of the Mrs Ws. There are beautiful worlds of colour, and worlds beautiful due to their absence of colour. There are worlds with mountains, strange creatures and atmospheres. Even the scary Stepford world of Camazotz is crafted wonderfully with its image of standardised cookie cutter houses and clean streets.
Not all is perfect in the universe however. Meg and Charles Wallace have to fight the IT who has their father held prisoner. They must do this while avoiding The Black Thing, the source of all evil in the universe. IT is a great villain, unrelenting, manipulative and cold. IT continually argued that it could take away the pain of the children by thinking for them, by making all their decisions. That way they could live in blissful ignorance while IT had all the power, and burden of freedom. IT is uncomfortably close to too many people’s view points, right now in our reality which makes IT seem all the more sinister. Combined with The Black Thing the children have quite the formidable evil to overcome during their saga.
The only negative thing that I found in the story is not a bad thing as such, more a matter of personal opinion. I really did not take to Calvin O’Keefe. I felt sorry for him at the start when he described his dysfunctional family life and how he always felt like an outsider, but I found him too stuffy, overbearing and condescending, especially towards Meg. The story was written in the 1960s so his attitude is not unexpected but I still didn’t take to his old fashioned, over chivalrous character.
As well loved as A Wrinkle in Time is the book is not without controversy. L’Engle was a dedicated Christian and lists Jesus amoung the great scientists, artists and philosophers ever to have lived. This drew criticism as it cannot be demonstrated that the Jesus described in The Bible ever really existed. Even with this religious overtone the book did not escape condemnation from Christians for its use of magic, crystal balls and its inclusion of witch like women. Goes to show really that you can never truly avoid criticism, even from those theoretically on your side.
I wish I read this book as a child, it would have been the basis for many, many hours of imagination. As we are never too old for children’s books and can still enjoy them as “grown-ups” I could argue that I can still use the worlds of this book for many more hours of day dreaming about traveling across the universe.
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