Gwen's Reviews > Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle
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Aug 23, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography-memoir, 2012-best-books
Recommended to Gwen by: 8.22.2012 Shakesville QOTD
Read on August 26, 2012

Such a beautiful (largely fictional) recollection of the L'Engle-Franklin marriage with wonderful nuggets of marriage-related wisdom to pass along:

* "I learned fairly early in my marriage that I did not have to confide everything on my mind to my husband; this would be putting on him burdens which I was supposed to carry myself." (73)

* "A long-term marriage has to move beyond chemistry to compatibility to friendship, to companionship. It is certainly not that passion disappears, but that it is conjoined with other ways of love." (76)

* "The growth of love is not a straight line, but a series of hills and valleys. I suspect that in every good marriage there are times when love seems to be over. Sometimes these desert lines are simply the only way to the next oasis, which is far more lush and beautiful after the desert crossing than it could possibly have been without it." (100)

* "When I married I opened myself to the possibility of great joy and great pain and I have known both. Hugh's death is like an amputation. But would I be willing to protect myself by having rejected marriage? By having rejected love? No. I wouldn't have missed a minute of it, not any of it." (231)

I have long been a fan of L'Engle's work, and even years after last reading one of her books, I noticed little parts of her own history that she wove throughout her fiction works.

* Canon Tallis (of The Young Unicorns, among others) was a real person and a good friend of her family.

* L'Engle and Franklin took their family on a cross-country camping trip, like the Austins also did in The Moon by Night.

* Adopting a friend's orphaned daughter is a central plotline of Meet the Austins.

* Moving from a country village to New York City is a focus of The Young Unicorns.

* As a girl, L'Engle attended a European boarding school, like Flip in And Both Were Young (which may be my favorite L'Engle book of all).

* The emphasis on swimming was echoed in An Acceptable Time.

* While mentioned only in passing, L'Engle's love of traveling on freighters became the principle setting for Dragons in the Waters (tied for second on my list of favorite L'Engle books--it's tied with Troubling a Star).

* Oh, kything. I never quite believed in this as much as some other fantastical aspects of L'Engle's work, but she does, which I suppose has to be enough for me. A Wind in the Door uses kything as a means of 'love communication.'

* Echthroi, like kything, is a concept I never fully grasped, but the idea pops up in A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet--two books I never quite liked as a child, but they may be due for some adult rereading.

* As I was reading through this, I saw parallels between Hugh's decline and that of the grandfather in A Ring of Endless Light, but I'm not sure the timeline matches up.

On the topic of religion, L'Engle adds a cutting remark, highly applicable for today: "But to certain Christians it is un-Christian to affirm the dignity and worth of human beings." (145)

And finally, some very good rules to live by: "When Lena [teenage granddaughter] moved in, Hugh said, 'There will be rules.' Lena blanched. I said firmly, 'The rules are these. You do not drink up your grandfather's grapefruit juice so that he has none in the morning. Rule two is that when you are going to be late, you telephone. Those are the rules.' She thought she could live with those. Later I added a third one: 'When you empty an ice tray, you refill it.'" (97)

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