A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
2 September, 2013
It was a dark and stormy night.
And so begins Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, one of the best-loved book for children that I missed reading when I was little. I thought I had most of my bases covered as we had an extremely well-stocked library in my British School in Bangkok and even in my tiny International School in Nagoya, Japan. Actually there was a wider range of books there than in my boarding school in England, believe it or not. But somehow, I missed both this and The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper.
One of the things about being a book-loving Aunt is that I want my nephews and niece to be exposed to all the books I loved as a child. I was so thrilled to become an Aunt that I bought the whole set of Narnia books for my one year old nephew not realising that it would be years before he would be able to read and that most probably the books would get lost in the interim. But I love that they know I love to read and would talk excitedly about their books to me. And although it’s hard, I try to restrain myself and not push books that I think they ought to read to them because you need to find the books you love yourself. That’s what I did. My parents never directed my reading. There were books in my house and I found them myself. And I went to the library and bookshop myself. They never censored my reading. They were very liberal and I now have very eclectic reading tastes which even they don’t fully understand. And that’s what I hope will happen to the kids.
In A Wrinkle in Time, the first in a quintet, twelve year old Meg is having a hard time. Misunderstood at school and missing her father who has disappeared, she is struggling to keep herself together. Until one night, they receive a mysterious visitor who utters the strange word ‘tesseract’ which throws her family’s life into turmoil. Together with her younger brother Charles Wallace and their new friend Calvin, Meg finds herself hurled into another time and place in order to rescue her father. For a darkness is coming to their world and they will need to use all their strengths and weaknesses to save their loved ones.
I was curious to know about A Wrinkle in Time but a little hesitant to read it as an adult. Sometimes, it’s disappointing as the pace and language is no longer what you are used to. But I was more than surprised to find that I enjoyed the tension and pace of the first volume in L’Engle’s series. And what was even more interesting is that A Wrinkle in Time dealt with quite a few complex issues and ideas that even some adults may struggle with. One of the most impressive things about this book is the explanation of the so-called wrinkles in time which are condensed and simplified versions of space-time and manifolds which were introduced by Einstein in his seminal work on General Relativity. As someone who has struggled to understand the theory as a student, L’Engle’s explanation has a beauty and simplicity which makes it easier to understand. And I loved that Charles Wallace is most probably an amalgamation of Charles Darwin and his rival/friend Alfred Russel Wallace. That’s just too cool.
Apart from the SF nature of the tale, parts of which were reminiscent of Jasper Fforde’s incredibly imaginative Shades of Grey, there is a rawness and immediacy to Meg’s emotions which strongly resonated. Her loneliness, misunderstanding and fierce love for her family, the difficulties of friendship, acceptance in her peer group, these are all things which each of us have to struggle with and learn to understand as part of growing up. I loved the way L’Engle doesn’t whitewash or diminish these difficult feelings.
The tension was palpable and I raced through the book. I can’t wait to give this to my nephew and I hope he likes it as much as I did.
The other titles in the series which I need to read:
A Wind in the Door
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
An Acceptable Time