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review 2019-01-11 20:00
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle
A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet #1) - Anna Quindlen,Madeleine L'Engle

I decided to reread A Wrinkle in Time again because I am also going to reread the remainder of the Murry/O'Keefe series and I am one of those people who needs to begin at the beginning. I don't have anything to add to this review, except that I remain in awe of Madeleine L'Engle's extraordinary humanity. She was a remarkable woman, and I'm not sure that we deserved her.

 

Rereading the book inspired me to rewatch the movie, as well. Maybe this weekend!

 

Review from 3/24/18:

 

I decided to reread after seeing the new Ava DuVernay adaptation with my daughter. I read the book as a child of the 1970's - probably a bit more than decade or so after the initial 1963 publication, around 1977, when I was 11. I fell in love with the book then, seeing much of myself in Meg Murry, the ordinary, often grumpy, young woman. I revisited L'Engle in 2015, and found that, while some of her books had not held up with reread, many of them did. 

 

This book is part of my personal canon, one of the books that shaped my childhood and had a part in making me who I am today.


A Wrinkle in Time is a bit of a period piece, to be sure. Girls today are stronger, more self-aware, more cognizant of the pressures of an often sexist society, and more willing to buck convention in order to be authentic to themselves. Not all girls, of course, but some girls. Our culture, today, at least struggles to understand these pressures and to acknowledge that they exist, even if we often fail to genuinely confront them.


The DuVernay adaptation succeeds in a way that, after reading alot of L'Engle, and a fair amount about L'Engle, I believe that she would appreciate. Casting Meg Murry as a biracial young woman was an inspired decision, the relocation of the plot to a more diverse location in California, the addition of Charles Wallace as an adopted child, to me really work to illuminate some of the themes that L'Engle was writing about - alienation and dangers of extreme social conformity in particular. 

There are parts of the book that are quite different from the movie, of course. In the book, the Murry's have two additional children, a set of male twins who are effortlessly socially competent. They are capable of fulfilling society's expectations with little work. Meg, on the other hand, is prickly, defensive, occasionally angry, and fearsomely intelligent - all things which 1963 America couldn't really cope with in girls. Heck, we still struggle with girls who are prickly, defensive, occasionally angry and fearsomely intelligent. 

A Wrinkle in Time shines light into dark places. For that alone, it's worth reading.

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text 2019-01-11 19:34
Proposed buddy read
Excellent Women - Barbara Pym

Themis-Athena, Murder By Death & I are planning a Buddy Read of Barbara Pym's Excellent Women to tentatively begin on Friday, January 25.

 

Plot summary: 

 

Excellent Women is one of Barbara Pym's richest and most amusing high comedies. Mildred Lathbury is a clergyman's daughter and a mild-mannered spinster in 1950s England. She is one of those "excellent women," the smart, supportive, repressed women who men take for granted. As Mildred gets embroiled in the lives of her new neighbors--anthropologist Helena Napier and her handsome, dashing husband, Rocky, and Julian Malory, the vicar next door--the novel presents a series of snapshots of human life as actually, and pluckily, lived in a vanishing world of manners and repressed desires.

 

Barbara Pym was born in 1913 and died of breast cancer in 1980 and Excellent Women was originally published in 1952.

 

According to Wikipedia:

 

"several strong themes link the works in the Pym canon, which are more notable for their style and characterisation than for their plots. A superficial reading gives the impression that they are sketches of village or suburban life, and comedies of manners, studying the social activities connected with the Anglican church (Anglo-Catholic parishes in particular.) (Pym attended several churches during her lifetime, including St Michael and All Angels, Barnes, where she served on the Parish Church Council.)

 

Pym closely examines many aspects of women's and men's relations, including unrequited feelings of women for men, based on her own experience. Pym was also one of the first popular novelists to write sympathetically about unambiguously gay characters (most notably in A Glass of Blessings).  She portrayed the layers of community and figures in the church seen through church functions. The dialogue is often deeply ironic. A tragic undercurrent runs through some of the later novels, especially Quartet in Autumn and The Sweet Dove Died."

 

In 2013, The Telegraph published an interesting piece for Pym's centenary, which can be found here.

 

If any of this sounds interesting, feel free to join us!

 

Participants (so far):

 

Moonlight Reader

Themis-Athena

Murder By Death

BrokenTune

Lillelara

The Better To See You My Dear

Person of Interest

Peregrinations

 

Honorary participate: Mike Finn

 

Let's use "pymalong" and "excellent women" to tag our posts!

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review 2019-01-09 17:23
Welcome to the L'Engleverse: The Young Unicorns
The Young Unicorns - Madeleine L'Engle

A few years ago I started a Madeleine L'Engle project. I read some of her Chronos/Kairos series (which starts with A Wrinkle in Time and focuses on the Murry family) and then I asked for the Austin series for Christmas. I read through this book - so this is a reread for me.

 

The Young Unicorns is set in New York City, and is told from the perspective of a young man, Josiah Davidson, who has become close to the Austin's since their move away from the small town where their house, Thornhill, is located.

 

L'Engles books are difficult to describe and difficult to pigeonhole. There are generally strong religious themes, as well as elements of sci fi. Because they were, typically, written for a YA audience, some of the elements haven't worn well and seem extremely dated. In this book, that's true of both the central element of science - something that L'Engle refers to as a "Micro-Ray," which is basically a laser, and, also, the presence of the least threatening "gang" in the history of literature, the Alphabats, who hang around a church.

 

However, even though those elements of the story are dated, and even laughable at times, I enjoyed The Young Unicorns. I think that L'Engle writes families better than anyone - she perfectly captures the warmth and humanity of a family, but doesn't leave out the conflict. If I had to choose a fictional family to adopt, it would either be a L'Engle family - the Austins and the Murrys are both delightful, or the Weasleys, from Harry Potter. 

 

Reading The Young Unicorns reminded me why I love her books, flawed though they are - and inspired me to restart, and this time complete, my L'Engle project.

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review 2019-01-06 23:54
The Bachelor by Stella Gibbons
The Bachelor - Stella Gibbons

I had planned to read this one for a 1944 club on my blog but ran out of time. This is my second Gibbons, and I have not yet read her most celebrated work Cold Comfort Farm - the first one I read was called Nightingale Wood, which I read a couple of years ago.

I think I liked this one a tiny bit better than Nightingale Wood, although it has some of the same issues that I stumbled on in that one. It's set during WWII, so the characters are on the homefront during the active fighting, but they scarcely seem to notice that there is a war on. There is some talk about the blackout, and a bit during a barrage, and a couple of the characters have war work that they are engaged in, but for the most part the three main character's lives go on much as they do during peacetime. I'm not sure if this is an accurate depiction of the way that money can smooth all of the rough edges off the world, even during WWII, or if it is a bit of wishful thinking on the part of Gibbons. I tend to think the latter.

It is a bit of a romance, although not in the genre sense, with the characters coupling off all over the place. My issue with The Bachelor is that I found only one of the pairings even remotely appealing or plausible. Gibbons writes flawed characters, which isn't a problem for me, but also writes characters who need a swift kick in the ass. The only characters I particularly liked were Betty and Alicia, and I actively disliked Vartouhi and Constance and found them unconvincing. Richard and Kenneth (the titular bachelor, btw) were pleasant enough, if a bit wet.

The writing is a pleasure to read, however, and the descriptions of Sunglade, the home where most of the "action" takes place, are beautiful. I will definitely read more Gibbons, because no matter my issues with her novels, they are worth reading.
 

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review 2018-12-22 17:56
Bel Lamington duology by D.E. Stevenson
Bel Lamington - D.E. Stevenson
Fletcher's End - D.E. Stevenson

These two very light, old-fashioned romances are available on Kindle Unlimited. Originally published in 1961 and 1962 in combination, they tell the story of Bel, young and somewhat impoverished woman living and working in London, and her travails. The first book gets her married off, and the second book deals with the purchase of a first home, renovation, a tiny bit of drama, and the romantic life of her best friend, Louise.

 

There isn't a lot of substance to the pair of books, but they are extremely sweet and I liked all of the characters a lot. The friendship between Bel and Louise is quite lovely and is unmarred by the sort of jealous nastiness that can sometimes pass for tension in books of this sort. Bel is a working girl when the books begin, and she is extremely capable at her job. While they were published in the early 1960's they had a more old-fashioned feel to them to me, more 1950's or even 1940's in atmosphere. There wasn't any real focus on the rapid social change occurring during the 1960's.

 

These two simple little books don't offer the same though provoking social commentary as something like South Riding, but they were free and a pleasant way to while away a few hours reading something entirely unchallenging. 

 

Stevenson is having a bit of a renaissance these days, between her Miss Buncle and her Mrs. Tim series. Neither of those are available for free, so I haven't dipped into them yet, although I do plan to read them at some point. I suspect that they are better than the ones that I have read, which are enjoyable, if a bit pedestrian, light romance. They are very comfortable books.

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