What fun to dig back into this children’s classic. I only vaguely remembered enjoying this as a kid, and I got to rediscover it via this audiobook, read by the author. My memory didn’t provide much: I think I was most familiar with the opening scene, in which Meg Murry is awake and frightened in her attic room alone by a storm outside. She is grumpy, frustrated with her family: her father for being away for so long; her baby brother Charles Wallace for not feeling her pain and coming to her as he usually does.
Next, of course, Meg and Charles Wallace meet the not-quite-mortal Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, and an unusual boy from Meg’s school named Calvin. This unlikely team will adventure together via the “tesseract” – a wrinkle in time and space as well, if you will – to try and find Mr. Murry, and save him, and save the world (and all the worlds) from the Black Thing.
This is a children’s chapter book. Madeline L’Engle notes in an introductory section that publishers thought it would be too hard for children; but her own kids loved it, and as it turns out, so does the world. It’s won several awards including a Newberry, and remains popular today. (Originally published in 1962 and still in print.) I can see how it would be “hard” for children, particularly the physics bits; but then, we don’t have to understand it fully to enjoy it, do we? And lots of adults are puzzled by physics too! This book has appeal for adults – perhaps obviously, here I am, and I don’t read a whole lot of children’s books. It still rings like a kids’ book, but I found the characters and the plot both engaging. I have a slight criticism that Meg occasionally sounds a little adult for her age; she does whine appropriately, but sometimes her observations are startlingly astute. It’s a common complaint with young characters in books. But only slightly, here.
Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are all likeable but human; their parents are similarly well-rounded, sympathetic characters. The Mrs’s are charming, and the world-building – in the world of Aunt Beast, for example – is well done. I like that Meg grows some in the course of the story; and L’Engle certainly leaves us open for a sequel, what with the possibility of a burgeoning romance, and the happily-ever-after-at-least-for-now ending (with the Black Thing still looming). Mostly I was just disappointed that it was over so quickly! (Another feature of children’s books.)
I was a little surprised to find religious references within; I didn’t remember those. Not many, but a few mentions of having God on one’s side, or being the chosen ones, fighting for good. It got me thinking. I’m not particularly good at spotting religious allusions, not having been raised in church or on the bible. They mostly pass me by. But spelling out G-O-D will catch my eye every time! It’s not a technique that appeals to me but it wasn’t a central enough theme here that it threw me off much, either. A theme that is central is a good-versus-evil dichotomy, which of course could be interpreted as being religious; but the book-banners have protested certain aspects of this story, too – including the grouping of Jesus with mortal fighters-for-good such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Pasteur, Einstein, Gandhi, Beethoven, Copernicus and a lone woman, M. Curie. So there you are: all matters of interpretation.
In a nutshell, I found this book a delightful, too-brief romp in another world. I am tempted to pursue further work by L’Engle; four books follow this in a quintet, and others of her oeuvre reference the same characters. Realistically, I don’t know if I’ll get to them. But this was an enjoyable read, and not just for children.