“It was a dark and stormy night.” Since the first time I read this first sentence of A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle I wondered if this statement was already a cliché when the book was first published or a sign of her brilliance. While the phrase written more than a hundred years yearly, by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton (thank you wikipedia!), and thus was not a piece of original writing. This, however, does not mean that the opening isn’t both cliché and brilliant.
How I feel about this sentence, is pretty much how I feel about the book. More than anything I appreciate the layers. From the three mysterious, dare I say Macbeth-like women, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which to the all-powerful IT, who can only be defeated by love – there are examples of pretty heavy-handed metaphor throughout the novel. But the narrative goes deeper than these surface metaphors. The book is full of intricate science concepts, like the tesseract fourth dimension.
The characters, especially Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace are relatable and complex both in their own personalities and in the ways they love each other. They contain the same levels, as the first sentence. What could be more clichéd then the jock that wants people to know the real him or the brainy girl with braces who just wants to fit in.
It is these levels, I think, that keep people ready but also keep people talking about the books even after 50 years! People like Leonard Marcus who recently wrote Listening for Madeleine or Hope Larson who illustrated a full-length graphic version of the novel (see below).
As much as you can distill why you love a favorite childhood book, I think the intelligence of the characters is what continues to draw me to the series. The characters are extremely smart in different ways, but for the most part that doesn’t translate to good grades. It can be isolating and confusing, and leads them into situations beyond their years. Also Calvin O’Keefe is pretty much my number one literary crush of all time, even surpassing Mr. Darcy in my heart of hearts.
Lots of people have read a Wrinkle in Time. Also, the second book in the series, A Wind in the Door, is a book I like even more. If you haven’t I suggest you give it a try – it really does have something for everyone. And until next time – tesser well!