Keith Mukai's Reviews > A Swiftly Tilting Planet

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
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Nov 24, 2007

it was ok
Read in November, 2007

Though L'Engle's storytelling improves after the dull previous outing of "A Wind in the Door", "Swiftly" fails in other more serious ways.

The biggest problem is her somewhat silly reliance on hereditary family names from generation to generation--names that endure for hundreds of years and somehow continue to intersect.

Madoc, Madog, Maddux, and Mad Dog; Gwydder, Gedder, and Gwen; Zyllie, Zyllah, Zylle; two Branwens and a Charles and a Chuck round out the cast. I think.

Something like four different generations are followed and each generation has its own version of each namesake. But it's not just one namesake per generation--the 1865 generation has a Zyllie in America and a Zyllah in South America. Or is it the other way around? Gedder wants a Maddux to get with his sister Zyllah and wants Gwen for himself, but that Maddux is engaged to the Zyllie in America. Confusing? Yes. Does this sound silly? Yes.

The first generation's usages of the names is fine. The second generation is interesting but gets a little confusing (like if the families married in the first generation, why are Maddocs still courting Zyllahs?). And by the third generation it's just absolutely ridiculous that L'Engle is still trying to play this name game.

All this nuttiness aside, our hero, Charles Wallace doesn't seem to really do much in the story. He travels within a particular person in each generation and kind of becomes them. But only in the first generation is it clear that Charles himself steps forward and directs his host to act in a certain way. After that, Charles' influence on his host--and therefore on the novel--is less distinct.

One can infer a few instances where his presence may have made a difference, but overall the effect is to make him seem more like a passive observer than active participant in saving civilization. And passivity is a serious flaw in any story.
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03/14/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Hedy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hedy perhaps you missed the point??


Keith Mukai That's entirely possible, but I think it boils down more to a question of personal taste: either you find the generation-by-generation bloodline/namesake interweaving compelling or you find it silly and repetitive.

I found it silly and repetitive. I don't think that's a mis-reading on my part; I think it's just a judgment call.

But I'm open to counter-arguments. I really did want to like the book and I know others who've loved it.


message 3: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Filkins I think this is very largely a reliance on her interest in Bible stories. This entire series seems to be a very inner-wonk exploration of various tales and morals of the old testament. Ms. L is notoriously religious and this stuff with the names struck me at the time as her kneeling at the stool of the original testament bards and their use of lineage to de-mark territory, wealth, etc. She uses a similar mode in her exploration of the angels in the other book.


message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura I didn't find the names so distracting.


April I agree with you. The names were silly and repetitive (couldn't have put it better). As a fan of A Wrinkle in Time, I really wanted to like the rest of the books, but I'm finding myself very disappointed. I think it bothered me that the protagonists didn't catch onto the names more quickly than they did. I mean isn't Charles Wallace suppose to be a genius?


Lindsey Yes. The name thing is what threw me and eventually I tired of trying to sort it all out in my head.


Allison The names seemed a little excessive, but if you think about it, it's not unusual for families to keep naming their offspring after their ancestors, especially when they are interested in their heritage, as these families were.


Meghan Historically, it was actually VERY common to pass names along for many generations. It was confusing, but believable. I also think it was probably symbolic of history repeating itself, which was something that was happening in other ways in the story.


Nathan I quite agree w/ Meghan-she's probably right. Personally though, I think most of the names Lengle describles are fine.


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

Levi Pierpont Hmm no. This book is wonderful and perfect and you'll never sway L'Engle's Magic. It's all purposeful, every intricate and beautiful detail is Meant.


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