A Wrinkle in Time | Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time | Madeleine L’Engle


A Wrinkle in Time opens, as many good books do, on a dark and stormy night. Meg, kept awake by the storm goes down to the kitchen for a midnight snack. She finds her mother and younger brother Charles Wallace there and they are interrupted by the arrival of a stranger. This sets off a chain of events leading the siblings to a trio of strange old women. The women tell Meg and Charles that their father, who has been away doing experiments for the government, needs rescuing. Along with their friend Calvin, they must travel through a wrinkle in time to save him and the universe!

This was my first time reading A Wrinkle in Time and as I love children’s literature (and am still a child at heart) and the film has come out recently, it felt like a good time to read it. I enjoyed this book. It’s an easy read (for an adult) and it is reminiscent of a lot of books I read as a child. Child finds themself in an unknown world, meets odd creatures (good, bad and just plain weird) and has to make their way back home. Despite following this formula, it’s still exciting – you don’t know what is going to come next.

There’s some planet hopping along the way and the trio ultimately end up on a planet called Camazotz which is truly terrifying. It is a dystopian world that could compete with 1984. The children have to face two antagonists: the Big Bad (known only as It) and The Man With The Red Eyes. I can imagine being terrified of the latter as a child reader as he has mesmerising eyes that can control you (and he reminded me of The Demon Headmaster).

I was also impressed with how high concept the SF is in this. (Not because it’s a children’s book, but rather because I’ve seen a lot of shallow SF in my time.) A wrinkle in time: the idea that in order to travel vast distances in space, you must ‘tesser’ is so clever and yet explained simply enough for younger readers to understand:

Mrs Who took a portion of her white robe in her hands and held it tight.
‘You see,’ Mrs Whatsit said, ‘if a very small insect were to move from the section of skirt in Mrs Who’s right hand to that in her left, it would be quite a long walk for him if he had to walk straight across.’
Swiftly Mrs Who brought her hands, still holding the skirt, together.
‘Now you see,’ Mrs Whatsit said, ‘he would be there, without the long trip. That is how we travel.’

wrinkle in time

L’Engle also explores the idea of sight being a limited sense on a planet of darkness and the limits of language. Although the alien creatures all speak English, characters still have difficulties in communicating due to a lack of shared experience of the world. It places importance on vocabulary rather than language as a limiting factor.

I was a little worried about the book having a cliffhanger ending as most of it is spent in pursuit of reaching their father and it’s the first in a series. The book can be read as standalone but in this context, the ending feels a little sudden. There are lots of plot lines left to explore and questions left unanswered.

Meg felt a little disappointing at first, as Charles Wallace leads the party for most of the book. However she experiences character growth, learning to be brave and does the rescuing twice, despite being terrified. Charles Wallace is precocious, intelligent and very perceptive, to the point that it’s implied that he is somewhat psychic. He could come across as arrogant but he’s aware of his gifts and is very loving towards Meg.

‘But of course we can’t take any credit for our talents, It’s how we use them that counts.’

The three magical characters: Mrs Who, Mrs Which and Mrs Whatsit all have their own quirks (Mrs Who speaks mostly in famous quotations and Mrs Which Ssssspeaks lllike ttthis, for example). But they function as a vehicle to move the plot along and allow the children to tesser. Much like fairy godmothers, they give each child a gift to help them on their adventure but are unable to go on the mission themselves because of reasons unknown. This felt frustrating because even a generic ‘it’s your destiny’ would have sufficed considering how invested they are.

I can see why this book has been so successful and is so well-loved. I think reading it without a sense of nostalgia has made me a little bit more critical to it, but it’s a really clever and well written book and definitely one you can definitely enjoy as an adult.

Have you read A Wrinkle in Time? How old were you when you first read it? Anyone out there who has read the rest of the series?

3 thoughts on “A Wrinkle in Time | Madeleine L’Engle

  1. I lived in Germany during middle school and some of high school and went to a military school. So things were taught backwards… as a result I missed some of the classics you read in school… and this was one of them. i tried reading it later as an adult and couldn’t get into it… I feel like I may be able to now?! I don’t know but you make the book sound better than I would have imagined! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so interesting, would love to know what kind of stuff you read/learned in Germany! I will admit that I started reading it late February (just before the film was released) and then ended up having a 2-3 week gap before finishing it. And it definitely didn’t blow me away. With the reputation that it has, I was expecting it to be closer to Narnia (i.e. a big, epic storyline and aimed at a higher reading level) but I think I was just very impressed with the science fiction concepts that it ended up being quite enjoyable!

      Liked by 1 person

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