Jim's Reviews > A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
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's review
Apr 10, 12

it was amazing
bookshelves: kids-miscellaneous, science-fiction, classics, kindle-books, favorites
Recommended to Jim by: Catie
Recommended for: Anyone with an open mind
Read from March 17 to April 09, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

4/10/12 Okay, this is the longer review. The added bit follows the dashed line ---

I learned about this outstanding book and its brilliant author from
Catie’s wonderful review and blog post. Yes, I should have known about it many years ago, but this was a gap in my experience. To make up for lost time, I now have the boxed-set series of 5 books for my family.

This is a wonderful adventure story for children - one that speaks to them as adults, and conveys a bundle of important life-concepts without getting weighed down by them.

It is also a great book for re-acquainting adults with the potentials of life - and the critical importance of faith - even as we deal with hard and often scary realities.

My review won’t be nearly as good as Catie’s - in part because she has read the book from both a child’s and an adult’s perspective, and in part because she just writes fabulous reviews (not to mention the artist renderings!). However, I will follow Catie's suggestion and focus mainly on my perspective as an adult, reading this for the first time.

At one level, this is a delightful - but harrowing - children’s adventure in a science fictional setting. The story is centered around a strong, smart girl named Meg, and her intuitively wise and precocious younger brother, Charles Wallace. The interplay between these two is a beautiful thing to see.

Charles Wallace: “It’s being able to understand a sort of language, like sometimes if I concentrate very hard I can understand the wind talking with the trees. You tell me, you see, sort of inad—inadvertently. That’s a good word, isn’t it? I got Mother to look it up in the dictionary for me.”

The narrative very cleverly promotes timeless values of family, loyalty and love. It also edges the reader toward a growing realization - that perseverance is critical to success in any difficult endeavor. It is the kind of book that you really want your kids to read and understand, and to come back to as they get older.

Meg: This has been the most impossible, the most confusing afternoon of my life, she thought, yet I don’t feel confused or upset anymore; I only feel happy. Why?

At another level this is a story for adults, but told from a child’s perspective. The adult story, when you step back and think about it, is a circle of ideas that are connected and interdependent. Within that circle are knowledge - what we know and what we don’t; reasoning to solve problems, even when you are too scared to think clearly; the importance of faith - that there are answers, even when you can’t see them; and a related kind of faith, that you can and must act without knowing some of the most critical facts.

Charles Wallace got his look of probing, of listening. I know that look! Meg thought suddenly. Now I think I know what it means! Because I’ve had it myself, sometimes, doing math with Father, when a problem is just about to come clear...

This is all grownup stuff, the sort of thing that philosophers have trundled on about for millennia. But the lessons here are concepts for living, simply stated, and at their core are simple truths that are easily lost in the day-to-day. We humans know a great deal, about a great many things, and (like Meg) we can reason our way through tough challenges to a brighter future. But arrogance about our knowledge can lead us to think we are masters of all around us. In the book, experiments with tesseracts are a great example. The experiments are in a noble cause, but they lead down a very dark path. In the bigger picture we know pathetically little, and all our knowledge is but a tiny scratch on the surface of what IS.

What she saw was only the game Mrs Whatsit was playing; it was an amusing and charming game, a game full of both laughter and comfort, but it was only the tiniest facet of all the things Mrs Whatsit could be.

And here is the critical point that is so well expressed in the narrative. We have to take our pathetically limited knowledge, and our dangerous arrogance, and get on with it. And when we fail, or things go wrong, we get angry and point fingers, just as Meg does here. As our brains scream about fears and anger, and point us in a lot of wrong directions, we have to pull ourselves together and move forward, using our limited working knowledge and accepting that we have to find answers as we go along. All of this involves faith, of different sorts and in shifting applications.

“What can I tell you that will mean anything to you? Good helps us, the stars help us, perhaps what you would call light helps us, love helps us. Oh, my child, I cannot explain! This is something you just have to know or not know.”

“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?” “Yes.” Mrs Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.”

In short, all of us must proceed into the darkness and reach for the light. For me, reading as an adult, that is what this book was all about.

Very Highly Recommended.
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Reading Progress

25.0% "This book is great! The writing is brilliant, and the characters are inspired. "“How do you know?” Charles Wallace shook his head. “I can’t quite explain. You tell me, that’s all.” “But I never say anything. You just seem to know.” “Everything about you tells me,” Charles said."" 10 comments
50.0% ""Our production levels are the highest. Our factories never close; our machines never stop rolling. Added to this we have five poets, one musician, three artists, and six sculptors, all perfectly channeled." Confession: I have nearly finished this wonderful book, but didn't have time to post updates as I read. Sooo, I am posting a couple as I should have earlier.." 12 comments
84.0% ""Night had gone and a dull gray light filled the room. But she realized now that here on this planet there was no need for color, that the grays and browns merging into each other were not what the beasts knew, and that what she, herself, saw was only the smallest fraction of what the planet was really like."" 3 comments
03/23 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-39)

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Wendy Darling Your status updates are making me want to reread this, Jim. :)

message 38: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thank you so much, Wendy! Very much appreciated, and I will certainly have it on my re-read list. :)

I will try to write a review that conveys something of the marvelous play of ideas in this story. Being woefully ignorant of some of the "classics for children", I had never come across this book/series until I saw Catie's marvelous review and blog post/comparison with the movie.

What strikes me most strongly here is the circle of ideas that L'Engle conveys with such mastery. We know so much, and we (like Meg) can reason our way through the toughest challenge to a better future. But we have to take on faith our ability to do so, because what we know or sense is the tiniest fraction of what is really out there. And we have to move forward through the darkness, something that our brains are screaming at us not to do.

Philosophers have batted those ideas around for millenia. Here, L'Engle creates a child who discovers the core wisdom for herself, with (of course) major assistance from some remarkable 'beings'.

Rachel Hartman Same here, Wendy. I LOVED this as a kid - I once retold the entire story to my sisters - but I haven't looked at it again as an adult. Maybe it's time!

Wendy Darling I actually loved her Austins series more as a kid (well, take "more with a grain of salt, this one's still 5 stars!), but I'm curious how I'd feel as an adult, Rachel.

*sigh* Someday there will be enough time to read/reread everything we want to...

message 35: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Rachel wrote: "Same here, Wendy. I LOVED this as a kid - I once retold the entire story to my sisters - but I haven't looked at it again as an adult. Maybe it's time!"

You should take a look, Rachel! I want to watch my kids' reactions to it, but I think it has really important messages for adults...

Wendy Darling wrote: "*sigh* Someday there will be enough time to read/reread everything we want to..."

I hope so, Wendy. I certainly don't have the solution for the time problem. Maybe we can get 'tessering' to work for readers too!

Bonnie, thanks for the like!

Catie I think that's one of the best things about having kids - you have a great excuse to revisit all of these wonderful children's books. This one has really held up for me, even as an adult.

Thanks so much for mentioning me Jim! I do hope that you expand this because I'd love to hear more. I think that you are so right about this book illustrating "the critical importance of faith." I continue to be so impressed with how effortlessly Madeleine L'engle spoke to the importance of faith, without ever downplaying logic/intellect/science. The two really can go hand in hand!

Hahaha, I wish that I could tesser back a few days and get twice the reading done.

message 33: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thank you so much, Catie! I love your comments, and you are expressing the points that I really want to emphasize in the longer review.

Yes, having kids does provide a lot of cover for reading all those great "children's" books. I learned a great deal about this one from your dual perspectives, but I will mainly focus on how it spoke to me as an adult. Like you, I am really struck by the author's ability to portray very complex ideas in language that a child (or an adult!) can understand.

If you find a way to tesser back, please send me the knowledge before you go! :)

message 32: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks for the 'likes', Jillian, Nataliya and Lou!

Catie Even better! I'd love to hear a purely adult perspective on this book. (That's something I'll never get to have for myself.)

message 30: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Catie wrote: "Even better! I'd love to hear a purely adult perspective on this book. (That's something I'll never get to have for myself.)"

I love your attitude, Catie! I will definitely keep that thought in focus.

Sesana I first read this book age 11, and looking back, I think this is where my love for SFF really started. Thanks for inspiring me to read it again, Jim.

message 28: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thank you so much, Sesana! That is a really great point, and I would guess that a lot of readers had a similar experience. Thanks for letting me know! :)

Catie I love this review Jim! Well done. I agree with everything that you said, and I think that learning to move forward into the dark is such a part of growing up. I love that whole awakening that Meg has about her father: how she wants him to take care of everything and fix it all, but then realizes that he can't. It's up to her to do it - to move forward into danger without any help.

As we grow up, we gain knowledge and understanding, but I think that so much of growing up is accepting how little we really do know and learning to live with that grey area. I love that part where Mr. Murry says, "don't be afraid to be afraid."

We finished it last night! It was really funny because I was reading the whole end part, where Meg is trying to figure out what she has that IT doesn't have and my little six year old daughter pipes up in her sweet voice: "I think it's love." Ha!! Kids are so brilliant sometimes.

message 26: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thank you so much, Catie! And what a happy coincidence that you finished it with your daughter last night!

Yes, all of your points here are so important, and your daughter is one smart six year old! I surely didn't see it as quickly as that... The kids are way ahead of us, sometimes.

This has been really interesting, reading the book as an adult and comparing notes with you from all the different perspectives that you have. And now watching your daughter pick up so many lessons from it!


message 25: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes This series was one of my faves as a young reader. And just as today, darkness devours, and requires real dedication to defeat.

message 24: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks so much for your comment, Will! I wish I had known about it as a young reader. And I can tell you that I was thinking exactly the same things as you about the darkness of today, and the dedication (and courage) required to beat it.

Still thinking about the lessons of this book in that context, every day.

message 23: by Dyuti (new) - added it

Dyuti Your review really makes me feel like reading this book : the concept sounded pretty interesting! Lets see if I can find a copy! Good review by the way.

message 22: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks so much, Dyuti! We have been having this discussion of "children's books" and how valuable they can be for adults. Catie and others talk about this on their reviews (I linked Catie's at the top of my review).

I hope you can find a copy, and I hope you enjoy it!

message 21: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks, Srinivas!

Beth   (the one who is) These books are old friends of mine. I'm glad you discovered them.

message 19: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Beth wrote: "These books are old friends of mine. I'm glad you discovered them."

Thanks so much, Beth! I was extremely impressed by this one, and I appreciate your kind words.

message 17: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim I am just finishing another fascinating "children's" book - The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

I will be reviewing it soon, but I think it is a great book and would definitely recommend a close look at it. The writing style and setting are completely different from this one, but it has many of the same themes, and definite appeal for a wide age range.

Beth   (the one who is) If your going through a children's book kick, I just finished Reading the Graveyard book.. It's by Neil Gaimen and I'd look into that one too.
Its a growing up book.

message 15: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim I will definitely check it out, and thanks for the recommendation!

message 14: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Excellent review, Jim. This was a favorite of mine as a child, and I just re-read it this past spring as well. In your review, you beautifully described a theme that means a lot to me - the limitations of our knowledge and the importance of taking leaps of faith. I've read 5 books in this series, and I think that A Wrinkle in Time is by far the most successful in exploring these themes and applying them to science and to religion.

message 13: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks so much, Kris! That theme is very important to me as well, and it was tremendously well treated in this book!

Sometimes, you have to leap before you can look.

message 12: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Fabulous review Jim!

message 11: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thank you so much, Erika!

message 10: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks, Michelle! Now I need to pull a rabbit out of the hat for my review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - hopefully with some comparisons of that 'new classic' with this 'established classic'.

Have a great holiday weekend with your family! Chat soon..:)

Riku Sayuj wow, you have read so much into this...

message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks, Riku! I had some fascinating discussions of the book and author with Catie (cf. messages 6 and 13 above) and other friends, and my review is really an extension of those discussions. I have been reading several "children's books" lately from an adult perspective, and it has been a revelatory journey for me.:)

message 7: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks, Kat! I think that is a great idea, and I will be interested in their reactions to it.

Still trying to get my boys into it, but they haven't risen to the bait yet. Apparently, Big Nate and Captain Underpants have attractions that they have not moved beyond as yet... (Actually, the 5th-grader is reading Charley Bone and likes it)

message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Kat wrote: "Ah, that pesky Captain Underpants. Who knew that diapers could be chic? But then again, I seem to recall wearing a sheet to toga parties during undergrad...*cough-cough*

On the upside, my eldest daughter now vastly prefers Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles series. (She can now whip my patootie in Egyptian god trivia.)"

Yes, well, let's not even talk about undergrad parties, nononono...

My 5th-grader loves Rick Riordan too! And he does know his gods, so maybe it will all go in a good direction yet. When they start watching my science and history documentaries instead of Cartoon Network, I will take heart for sure..

message 5: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks, Kay!

Mary Awesome review, Jim! This was a seminal book for me as a child, and it holds up well. Your review helped me see why.

message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks so much for the kind words, Mary! Much appreciated, and I wish I had read it as a child too. It really is a great book for all ages, I think.

Julia Oh, I read this one to my first graders back when I was still living in the States and they adored it. Great review, Jim! It gives me the itch to re-read this masterpiece.

message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks so much for the kind words, Juliebird! Much appreciated, and I am sure you would enjoy re-reading it if you can find the time.

Great to hear from you, and I hope all is going well in your latest pursuits.:)

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