Posts Tagged ‘madeleine l’engle’

Time Quintet Re-read: An Acceptable Time

Well, Squiders, here we are at the end of our re-read. I hope you’ve had a good time of it, and stay tuned for our next one, to be announced some time in the next few weeks. And it you hadn’t read the Time Quintet yet, I hope you enjoyed the books.

To be perfectly honest, I thought there were only four books in the series, but I did a Google search in the process of posting about the re-read and lo! there were five books.

I admit I don’t read much L’Engle outside of these books. I read A Ring of Endless Light last year and I didn’t really like it, so I think it’s the combination of science and religion that I like. She does it somewhat masterfully, really. To paraphrase something Bishop Colubra says in this book, it doesn’t matter if you believe in God, but he does, and that’s okay. Characters are religious or not, nephilim and cherubim exist, “El” talks to Noah, but none of it is in your face.

All right, onto An Acceptable Time. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like characterization isn’t really one of L’Engle’s strong points. All of her main and peripheral characters are essentially good-hearted people who do the right thing, whether or not they are a native person from three thousand years ago or a modern person. I’m not sure, if you took Polly out and replaced her with Meg, that you’d see any real difference in the story.

Zachary’s an ass. He was one in A Ring of Endless Light too.

Let’s see. It’s nice to see some continuity between this and Planet, with the People of the Wind, though there is no mention of dark planets or IT or anything of that nature. (And now that we’ve gotten all the way through without returning to IT at all, I’m a little disappointed. Maybe if she’d tied IT to the events in A Wind in the Door a bit, I’d be less annoyed.) And the part in the past, if you ignore the ability of all the characters to learn languages rather quickly, is interesting.

I did have a bit of an issue with the “modern” day part, however — specifically how disbelieving the Murrys are about the whole idea of time-travel. They were there for A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. They know things like this happen, even if they’re completely unaware of the events of Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I’m not sure why so many characters are suddenly so closed-minded.

(Also, did something happen to Charles Wallace? Polly mentions that he “would have liked” the changes to his bedroom early in the book, and then he’s not mentioned again, hardly, though Meg, Calvin, Sandy, and Dennys are.)

All right, onto the discussion questions. As always, feel free to ask your own in the comments.

1. Madeleine L’Engle is sometimes accused of being culturally insensitive when it comes to the People of the Wind. Would you say that this is true when it comes to this book?

2. Polly is staying with her grandparents to be homeschooled, but Charles Wallace and Meg were not allowed to be homeschooled earlier in the series. Why do you think attitudes towards this have changed throughout the series?

3. While most of the “modern” day characters have been seen in other books, why do you think Madeleine L’Engle chose to include the character of Bishop Colubra?

4. Time travel throughout the series is rarely set up so that the time traveler returns to his/her own time without some noticeable passage of time (the only exception being Sandy and Dennys in Many Waters). Why is it important for time to pass in both times?

5. Many of the characters in the past have nature based names such as Cub, Eagle Woman, Winter Frost, Dark Swallow, yet the main characters do not. Why the difference in the naming scheme?

Time Quintet Re-read: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

I want to begin by saying that I have a paperback copy from 1981, and Charles Wallace has an epically bad late-70s/early-80s haircut on the cover.

Let’s see. Having read this now, I don’t think I’ve read it before. I can remember, probably at least a decade ago, searching through used book stores and rummage sales in search of A Swiftly Tilting Planet because I had the other three books and not this one, but apparently I never actually read the book once I finally acquired it. Go me.

I did like it, though. I thought it made a good continuation from A Wind in the Door with the Echthroi and the upping of the stakes (though I continue to be uncertain how IT and dark planets connect, and there’s no mention of either in this book). I liked how small changes throughout history–even just in a few families’ lines–can turn a potential bad event into a good one.

There were some things I found infuriating, however. Whenever Charles Wallace was Within, he essentially disappeared. We know, from the narration, that his being Within changed something in the time, just a little, to get a more positive outcome over a negative one, to swing the balance, but you have no idea what it was. For example, in the colonial period, where Zylle was being tried as a witch, I assume in the original time line she was burned and so forth, but I couldn’t tell you why it went differently with Charles Wallace. After being Within Madoc, Charles Wallace asks if he gave Madoc the rune, but this wouldn’t have been true in later times because the rune was passed down through the families. So I would have liked just a hint of what changed with Charles Wallace there, what he brought into the equation that hadn’t been there before.

And with most of the times, I could guess at what had changed, but the one with Beezie and Chuck…I have no idea. Sometimes it seemed like most of the point of being there was to get bits of the story, leading up to the final Within, the one that directly determined whether it would be a good or bad future, the one with Matthew Maddox, but then, it was a bit of a false lead-up, because we didn’t get any more insight into what Charles Wallace did to help there than we did elsewhere.

I can see why she went back and set Many Waters¬† between this and A Wind in the Door. It’s been nine years, and you have to wonder what happened in that time period, why, after two encounters with dark forces in two years, that they’d gone so long without another.

On the other hand, you have unicorns in both this book and Many Waters, and they don’t quite work the same. Gaudior is an intelligent being, who can talk and think and so forth. While the unicorns in Many Waters can also travel through space and time, they don’t seem to be intelligent at all, and don’t really exist when they’re not there. I’m not sure why she chose to have unicorns in both but not be consistent with them.

Sandy and Dennys seem a bit out of character here if you take the events of Many Waters into account. Which is always a risk in backtracking your characters.

Calvin continues to not really be much help.


1. Madeleine L’Engle has always been a bit vague about when and where the Time Quintet takes place, sometimes leaving contradictory clues. Based on this book alone, what would you say the when and where is?

2. Is it right for Charles Wallace to push people towards decisions that they would not have made on their own? Why or why not?

3. What is gained by having Meg kythe along for the journey?

4. What do you think the title means?

5. Why do you think it’s necessary to have time pass in the present while Charles Wallace and Gaudior are off riding the wind through time?

As always, your own questions and comments are welcome. And we’ll read our final book, An Acceptable Time, for December 27th.

Time Quintet Re-read: Many Waters

Hopefully no one got confused (like Ian *cough*) and read A Swiftly Tilting Planet instead. While Planet was published before Many Waters, Many Waters goes first chronologically.

I still like it a lot. Bible mythology is one of my very favorite mythologies. I’ve done a lot of research on it myself, so it’s always nice to see it used (and used properly) in a story. My one real complaint is that she uses “nephilim” here to essentially be synonymous with “fallen angel,” whereas the term is usually used to describe human/angel offspring. But the nephilim are generally described as giants, and I like how she’s made them (and the seraphim) so much taller than the people. Also, one of the reasons God creates the flood is to destroy the nephilim, so hoorah to her for incorporating that.

Things I like about this story: the world. I like that she’s integrated these creatures that are mythological into the normal world. Unicorns and manticores and griffins – things that exist in stories but could have, conceivably, been destroyed in the flood. And I like that she made the people much smaller. We know that people used to be shorter, even as little as a few hundred years ago, so it makes sense, and it’s nice that she makes it so it’s hard to tell when exactly they are.

And I want a pet mammoth.

I also like the fact that while it is a retelling of a biblical story, it is not a religious story. There is some good vs. evil, like in the entire series, but aside from the fact that God (“El” here, which is also great, more on that in a second) actually talks to people and angels, there’s not a lot of morality that you’re hit over the head with.

Plotwise, this book seems completely stand alone, unconnected to the other books. First of all, we’ve got Sandy and Dennys as the main characters, when they’ve been merely peripherals otherwise, and there’s no mention of dark planets or Echthroi. Aside from the mention of tessering and some discussion of quantum physics, the scientific aspects are barely mentioned here.

Calling God “El” here is a wonderful move, because “el” literally means God. This is why the angels are named things like MichaEL (who is like God), GabriEL (strong man of God), RaphaEL (God has healed), etc. So not only is it an actual translation of God, but it makes things obvious without brow-beating.

Okay, onto the questions, and have Planet ready to go for November 29th.

1. How do you think disrupting their father’s computer program manages to result in actual tessering?

2. Do you think the twins were meant to go to that time period? Why?

3. Would you consider THIS to be a religious book? More or less than Wrinkle?

4. Why do you think Madeleine L’Engle decided to move away from Meg/Calvin/Charles Wallace for this story?

5. Most of the creatures on or around the oasis are mythological or are nephilim/seraphim in disguise. Why do you think Madeleine L’Engle included the mammoths but not any other extinct creatures?

As always, your own comments and questions are welcome.

Time Quintet Re-read: A Wind in the Door

When I first read this book as a kid, I remember coming out of it being slightly confused about what had just happened.

I still feel that way. I think it’s the end. The inexplicable wind that blows the door open. Is it supposed to show that Progo is still with them, in some form, or something of that ilk?

Symbolism has never really been my strong point.

So, anyway. It’s kind of like a more grown-up version of the Magic School Bus. (Now, children, we’re in Arnold’s Charles Wallace’s mitochondria! Do you note the difference in DNA from its host cell? Who knows what DNA is?) I know the point is to show that no matter how big or small something is (and we kind of dealt with “big” in Wrinkle), everything is interconnected and important, but I really liked the Magic School Bus when I was little.

I did learn (re-learn) about mitochondria, though, so hoorah. And Meg seemed to have grown quite a bit since the first book, though she does get a bit whiny at points.

I do kind of wish we’d connected the Echthroi (Greek for “enemy,” by the by) back to the Black Thing from Wrinkle somehow, or talked about it at all. Progo has one off-hand comment about dark planets, but other than that, the topic is not breached at all. Are there two evil forces at work in the galaxy? Does one work for the other? In what way? The Black Thing seemed more about control than destruction.

I also found the chronology confusing. The book was published in 1973, but the moon landings are several (decades?) in the past. I guess she’s trying to go near-future, but aside from the moon landings, she doesn’t try to age anything to make it seem futuristic at all. The environment seems perfectly entrenched in the decade it was written.

All right, onto the discussion questions.

1. How is Xing yourself different (and therefore better) than the Echthroi Xing you? Do you think it hurts as much?

2. Madeleine L’Engle invented the fictional farandolae as an essential component of this story. Why do you think she needed an additional level of depth past mitochondria?

3. What do you think it means that even a garden snake can be a Teacher?

4. Progo refers to himself as “practically plural.” What do you interpret this to mean?

5. The Echthroi appear to be something, so how is it that they can create nothing?

As always, feel free to bring up your own points and questions in the comments.

And read Many Waters (which, if memory serves me, is my favorite) for October 30th.

Time Quintet Re-read: A Wrinkle in Time

…though it’s really more of a wrinkle in space, if you know what I mean.

It occurred to me late last night that, as much as I hated tearing books apart in high school English, I am now doing it of my own volition and for fun.

Oh God, Mrs. Nations was right.

Right, enough of that, and down to business. (Though, every time I read “IT” I thought acronym and not word and it was really distracting. Somewhere out there is an evil information technology department hellbent on universe domination.)

So, I’m going to be frank with you. I have read each of these books exactly once (and I’m not sure I ever read An Acceptable Time¬†at all) and they were all a very long time ago, and I have no idea where the series goes from here, and for those of you who have read ahead (::coughIancough::), don’t tell me. But it seems to me that we haven’t seen the last of the Black Thing at this point, and I would hope that it is revisited in the later books and eventually some sort of resolution is arrived at, no doubt incorporating what we have learned thus far about ourselves and the universe.

So, aside from the set-up of a possible over-arcing plot-line involving the Black Thing, the biggest part of the story seems to be the evolution of Meg’s character. She refuses to take responsibility for anything up until the very end. (I’m honestly a bit impressed with how calmly the other characters deal with her at places.) Still, as a child, I imagine I identified with Meg quite a bit – a bespectacled nerd that can’t seem to do anything quite right. Wouldn’t you want a sibling like Charles Wallace, someone who knew you so intimately?

Not sure what Calvin’s up to. He seems like a nice guy but he doesn’t get to do much in this book.

Also, I find the whole discussion of tessering a bit confusing. There is such thing as a tesseract – I did a report on them in high school actually (along with a two dimensional being whom I named Fred). A tesseract is a fourth-dimensional hypercube, essentially a cube that moves in time. That actually makes some sense, if you think of tessering as being on a section of this 4D cube, and then after n time you are somewhere else. But the explanation in the book says it’s fifth-dimensional (which makes more sense because then both space and time would be variable) but then it wouldn’t be a tesseract. (Wikipedia says that’s called a penteract.) So I don’t know if I’m not understanding the explanation in the book correctly, or if she wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about.

So here’s how we’re going to do this. I’m going to list some discussion questions. Feel free to bring up points of your own in the comments. Also, let me know what you think of the schedule (currently one book a month) and whether you’d like to move it up to one book every two weeks. By the current schedule, we’ll discuss The Wind in the Door on September 27. (It would be September 13 if we change it.)

1. A Wrinkle in Time was written in 1962. How are some ways you could see the story changing to adapt to modern technology if the story was written today?

2. At various points of the book, God or a God-like entity is referenced. Do you believe this is a Christian novel? Can you make any determinations about Madeleine L’Engle’s religious views from this?

3. What do you think it means that Camazotz is so similar to Earth when the other planets (and their creatures) are not?

4. Does a character like Charles Wallace have room to grow?

5. How do you think you tesser to a two-dimensional world?

Have at it, Squiders.

Introducing the Time Quintet Re-read

For those who are staring at the title, unsure what I am talking about, the Time Quintet is a series of five books by Madeleine L’Engle, consisting of A Wrinkle in Time, The Wind in the Door, Many Waters, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and An Acceptable Time. This will work slightly differently than the Harry Potter Re-read of last year, because unlike the HP books, it has been considerably longer since I’ve read any of these. I’m pretty sure I last read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in sixth grade.

I’m not going to tell you how many years ago that was.

Still, Wrinkle was one of the first true speculative fiction books I read that was concerned with being more than just the common adventure you find so often for children, and I’m excited to read it again as an adult.

Learning from the HP re-read, we’ll do one book a month, so we’ll discuss Wrinkle on August 30th.

Now, you may be saying, will we ever do a re-read of an adult series, Kit? Well, I’m not sure. The nice thing about children’s series is that they seem to be more universal – more people have read them previously. Also, enduring children’s series also tend to resonate on some level with a large number of people, making them a good study on human nature and blah blah blah.

I’ve got some in mind, however. Foundation by Asimov, maybe. Let me know if you have any ideas.

And get cracking on Wrinkle.