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review 2017-10-20 16:51
Love and Physics
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

I reread this for the Classics for Beginners group read via the Audible audiobook narrated by Hope Davis. The audio format was a good idea. I was able to do other things and still experience the story again as an adult. While it definitely feels of the time period it was written, it didn't feel that dated to me. I will divide my comments into sections because that seems like a good approach for this book.

Characters

The characterization is in my opinion the focus of this novel. The main characters include Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, Calvin O'Keefe, a slightly older boy that goes to Meg's school, and the mysterious Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Secondary characters include Meg's mother and father and brothers, and the various beings that they encounter on their journey.

Meg's characterization is complicated. At times she is unlikable because she tends to be moody and somewhat whiny. This is understandable, so a great degree, considering how her father disappeared and she misses him, and also her awkwardness as a person. Meg is brilliant when it comes to mathematics, but her social abilities are lacking.

Calvin is a character that balances Meg in very good ways. Calvin is a young man of words and communication. His ability to get along with everyone is crucial on their journey. He is able to understand people and talk to them on their level. And he's a very humane person. He takes the time to understand that brilliant people often don't bother with.

Charles Wallace is a special young boy. His intelligence is off the charts, frankly eerie. This never explained. However, his unique persona is at the crux of this novel. The great evil that they encounter happily tries to explain his specialness for its own purpose.

Mrs. Whatsit, Who and Which are strange ladies that Charles Wallace and Meg become acquainted with, and help them on their journey to find their father. They seem like eccentric women but they are so much more. The relationship that Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin develops with them is one of loving support.

Meg's mother Katherine was not in this book very much. I wish we had seen her viewpoint more, but that wasn't the goal of the author. Meg's father Alexander plays a bigger role, but he is more ancillary compared to the three kids. He is their motivation and he's the catalyst for the story. The two twins Sandy and Dennys are used more as a contrast to Meg and Charles Wallace, because they are the relentlessly normal offspring in the family.

The evil beings in this novel are nebulous, not really explained, but definitely threatening. I think there are some very philosophical aspects that go alone with the concept of evil in this story that will attempt to delve into shortly.

There's another character that I can't get into without spoiling this review, so I will just say that Meg encounters a being who becomes a bit of an analogue for her mother and father. She connects to this being and gets a necessary sense of acceptance and caring that she hasn't experienced for some time due to the situation of her father being gone, her mother also being a scientist and having three other brothers with which she has to share attention.

Plot/Storyline:

This is a science fiction novel with a healthy dose of philosophy and a debatable aspect of religion/spirituality. That last part would depend on a person's viewpoint on the subject. Meg and Charles Wallace are essentially on a journey to find their father, and Calvin comes along for the ride. They travel to other worlds using the concept of tessering. This is something that Meg's mother and father stumbled across, but the Mrs. W know a lot more about doing right. Because this book is written for a younger audience (late tweens to teens), the danger that the kids encounter is there but it's not illustrated in detail. Nevertheless, you get the idea how dire the situation is for the kids.

Themes/Philosophy:

"A Wrinkle in Time" is a novel about family, sacrifice, relationships, and the concepts of good versus evil. I will attempt to explain what I got out of the novel, probably imperfectly.

Being intelligent is a valued commodity. I think that L'Engle seems to want to say that being smart in and of itself brings along with it some challenges and doesn't protect a person from its consequences of solve all the problems that they might have to deal with in their lives. I believe this is well-illustrated through the struggles of Meg, Charles Wallace, and her mom and dad. Dad might be brilliant, but his brilliance alone cannot save Charles Wallace. Meg might be a math genius, but it doesn't make her excel in school or get along better with others. On the other hand, Calvin is a well-balanced person who is intelligent in his way, but also has emotional intelligence and is gifted with needed communication skills.

Meg shows how we must conquer our fears and do what needs doing in spite of them. Sometimes we go into situations knowing we are out of our depth, but this is inevitable. We have to just be present and do what needs doing, and if we're blessed that's enough. Meg also illustrates how we can strike out in our pain at others because of our suffering. With maturity comes the understanding that we all have struggles, and hurting others because we're in pain never achieves what we desire. She learns to temper her fears and frustrations and to focus on the goals and objective. I think that's a very good lesson for people of all ages.

Charles Wallace shows the cost of arrogance. He thought that because he was crazy intelligent and very unique, that would be all he needed to conquer the enemy, but it only got him into a worse situation. Arrogance can definitely write checks that we can't cash.

The concepts of spirituality are present in this novel. Many times, characters quote Bible verses. The true nature of some of the character makes me think of celestial and demonic beings. The theme of self-sacrifice, agape love, and sacrificial love is at the heart of Christian ethos. I don't think anyone could deny that these definitely point to the Christian faith of the author L'Engle. However, she doesn't force a telescopic view of the world through Christian theology on the reader. She cites and includes some philosophic concepts that more orthodox-thinking Christians would have a hard time with. She doesn't put Christians on a higher level in society than non-Christians who have also made important contributions. Also, science is a big part of this novel. On a personal level, I didn't find a believe in scientific concepts incongruous with spiritual belief, but this is not the case with fundamentalist Christian believers. For that reason, they would not like this book. Also, narrow thinking Christians won't like the idea that the Mrs. seem like kindly old witches.

Some Shortcomings of This Novel:

I would still give this five stars because I still love this book and it's also from nostalgia of when I read it many years ago. Meg's temper tantrums could be problematic. Also, there is a scene where Charles Wallace is very violent towards his sister that might be upsetting to some readers. The conclusion is a bit too abrupt for my tastes, quite honestly. I've found that to be the case with many books I've read lately. I said earlier in this book that it doesn't feel that dated. I'm sort of wrong in the sense that the concepts of family are very traditional. Meg feels like she can't go on without having her father's presence (as though he is a lodestar for his family). That in itself is not a bad thing, but modern readers who didn't grow up with this sort of family probably wouldn't connect to this. Also, when they go to Camazotz, it feels like "Leave it to Beaver" on steroids. Very traditional, 1950s sort of view of life. There is no allusion whatsoever to multiculturalism or the concept that all families don't look the same. I did like how L'Engle makes a point that this sort of societal design is sterile and kills any kind of ingenuity or joy of living.

Is This Science Fiction?:

That's a question that will inevitably come up for a reader. I think it definitely is science fiction. Google defines science fiction as: "fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets." Under this definition, it would be difficult to argue against this being a science fiction novel. A huge aspect of this novel is the concept of physics and using it to navigate through 'wrinkles' in time. Also, the book involves traveling to other planets and exploring what life on those planets would be like. Also how advanced science technologies would change life as we know it. The thing that might trip up some readers is the equally strong aspect of philosophy to this story. I don't think these two things are mutually exclusive. In fact, they can go hand in hand. Good versus evil is at the root of most good fiction. And this is played out endlessly in everyday life. Sometimes, it's subtle. Many of us can argue that we don't meet truly evil people, but when you do encounter evil, you always know it deep in your gut. If you haven't read this book, you should decide for yourself and let me know what you think of it as a science fiction book.

I would recommend this book to readers who haven't had a chance to explore this book. I liked the audiobook version. Hope Davis is a good narrator, and she acquits herself well in styling each character. Many years after my first reading, it's still one of my favorites.

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review 2017-10-12 17:41
I don't get it.
A Wrinkle in time - Madeleine L'Engle

Another "classic" I had never read as a child and finally decided to give it a go. Decided to go ahead and buy a bargain version of the trilogy since it was cheaper than buying a brand new copy of the first book at the bookstore AND I'd be able to binge-read it all. 

 

I didn't get it. The first 15-20 pages or so were interesting but it just became really boring. The story never sucked me in and I never became very invested in the outcome. As other reviews note, the Christian themes and allegory is a bit much. Stories that have heavy religious undertones/themes/storylines, etc. never ever appeal to me and so after finishing it wasn't a surprise to me that this probably played a part in why I didn't care too much and why I was never drawn to reading it when I was younger.

 

It's a pity because I thought I'd try to read this *before* the movie comes out but it looks like this is one of those stories that may work better for me on the screen rather than the page. These types of stories obviously aren't for everyone and I guess I'm just one of those that doesn't get it. 

 

It's a readily available classic so unless you're trying to read up before the movie is released it shouldn't be too hard to find at the bookstore or local library. 

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review 2017-10-09 20:32
Wow! What an Ending!
Asylum - Madeleine Roux

The kids in the Teen Book Club asked for a scary book that wouldn't scare them. No dolls, no clowns, etc. This fit the request. It was creepy and had a mystery to it. 

 

A group of teens has come to the college in NH for college prep. They are to live in the dorms (what used to by the asylum) for the 5 weeks while attending different classes every day. On the first day, Dan Crawford, meets his roommate, Felix, and Abby and Jordan. Abby, Jordan, and Dan become friends, to the point of being called the Hydra by a professor, but at the end of a week, their friendship has hit some bumps. They separate the next week and rarely come together. They are dealing with their own issues (Jordan is gay and has to stay in the closet, Abby's parents are going through problems and she just wants to find her aunt and Dan has moments where he doesn't remember things, blanks in his memory). They all explore the rooms that are supposed to be off-limits. After their first trip into those rooms, they start to have dreams and the dreams cause them to change. They explore the basement areas a few times, together and alone. Things start to happen and they are all beginning to have issues. 

 

Really good suspenseful book and I do recommend it. It was a very fast read, for my youngest and I. The older girls are dragging on it as the suspense builds and creeps them a little more. 

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review 2017-09-29 17:02
Fear-mongering, transformation, and awakening
Do Not Say We Have Nothing: A Novel - Madeleine Thien

Much like when I read The Historian, I was unable to decide if what I was reading was fiction or nonfiction. (Of course, there were no vampires in this book so maybe this isn't the best comparison except for the way they both made me feel.) I couldn't put down Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien despite how much I sometimes wanted to in order to spare myself further heartbreak. This is the story of those who lived through China's Cultural Revolution and their successors a world away in Canada...at least a tiny little slice. Our main characters rotate between Sparrow, Kai, and Zhuli who lived during Mao Zedong's reign of terror, Ai-Ming who took part in the demonstrations of Tiananmen Square, and Marie who wants to piece everything together in present day Canada. This is also about music and its power to lift the soul or to mire it in secrets. A lot of sensitive topics are touched on in this book including but not limited to torture, public humiliation, and sexual assault. This is not just a work of historical fiction but also a mystery about people, events, and a book that keeps resurfacing. Intricately woven with details which seem to make the story come to life in vivid color right before your eyes this book is one that I think everyone should experience. This is the hallmark of excellent historical fiction. 10/10

 

For a nearly complete list of the classical music mentioned in the book: Spotify.

 

Source: Goodreads

 

 

What's Up Next: Hunger by Roxane Gay

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-09-02 18:42
Review of Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright
Madam Secretary: A Memoir - Madeleine Albright

I am a big fan of Madeleine Albright and this book did not disappoint.  This memoir tells the story of Albright's career in service, focusing mostly on her work in the UN and as Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration.  It covers a lot of ground, and was a great primer for all international issues of the 1990s.  I enjoyed her writing style and her wit, and felt that she was very open and honest with her successes and failures.  Highly recommended for those interested in a great woman or the time period.

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