monthly fandom

A Wrinkle in Time

I believe one of the worst omissions from my childhood reading life was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. (I was a sheltered kid, and I think the paperback cover weirded my parents out.) Fortunately, as with many great children’s books, I discovered it with a vengeance as an adult.

The Time Quintet, as A Wrinkle in Time and its four sequels are called, takes place all over time and space–from a faraway planet controlled by an evil brain, to a tiny molecular construct in a human cell–but they all revolve around the various talented members of the Murry family. It’s hard to tell whether the series is fantasy or science fiction, because although some of the main characters are scientists, and everyone describes the book’s universe in scientific terms…there’s also a unicorn. And three witches (who may actually be angels), and a Cherubim. Yes, one Cherubim, who describes himself as “practically plural.” Whichever category you put it in, it’s awesome.

This fandom consists mostly of kids who are (quite rightly and properly) forced to read A Wrinkle in Time for school because of the Newbery Medal on the cover, and then like it so much that they go out and find the other books. But not all kids grow out of their favourite novels later in life, so there are plenty of adults who love it as much as I do, or more. The first book in the series got a made-for-TV Disney movie in the early 2000s, which was almost universally despised by fans of the books and not really seen by anyone else.

Although I love A Wrinkle in Time, and all of the sequels have their merits, my heart really belongs to A Wind in the Door, the second book in the series. That’s the one that takes place (partly) inside a mitochondrion. What I love about L’Engle’s writing is that she can take abstract concepts that one might read about in a science magazine and turn them into something mystical and supremely strange. The scenes in which the molecules of a cell are described as fantastical creatures locked in a cosmic dance are, to me, the pinnacle of her power as a writer.

Be, butterfly and behemoth,
be galaxy and grasshopper,
star and sparrow,
you matter,
you are,
Be caterpillar and comet,
Be porcupine and planet,
sea sand and solar system,
sing with us,
dance with us,
rejoice with us,
for the glory of creation,
seagulls and seraphim
angle worms and angel host,
chrysanthemum and cherubim.
(O cherubim.)
Sing for the glory
of the living and the loving
the flaming of creation
sing with us
dance with us
be with us.

I mean…wow.

On another note: Meg Murry is one of my favourite literary heroines. Long before Hermione Granger appeared, she was proof that girls can be smart (even in math!), can save the day, and, yes, can get married and have children without losing their impact on the world. Even if they have glasses and aren’t all that pretty. Meg not only falls in love over the course of the sequels and raises a family, but she goes on to save the world again (while pregnant). I always enjoy a fantasy book that treats females like people, especially if it was written in the 50s.

Of course, it helps that love is the most powerful force in the Time Quintet universe, so you don’t need weapons or a macho personality to beat the bad guys (or…whatever you call IT). Another thing I like about the series.

May Madeleine L’Engle rest in peace. She brought more wonder and weirdness to a world that can never have too much.



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