I read this as a kid but failed to connect with it. I picked it up again when my book club at work turned to the fantasy genre. Unfortunately, my adult reaction was no different than my preteen self.
|This is the cover I remember|
My entire objection to the book is tied up in the main character, Meg. Great pains are taken to emphasis that Meg is the black sheep of her family, incompetent at school, full of unbridled angst, and mousy to boot.
Told from Meg's viewpoint, the story is full of outbursts, tearful declarations, and constant frustrations. This goes far beyond what we would expect from a gangly teenager girl. Meg isn't just made to feel unattractive - she has an unattractive personality.
What irks me about Meg is that L'Engle left her without any gifts. She is thoroughly unlikeable and untalented. Daughter of two scientists, sister of a child prodigy, and friend to a math whiz * (reader correction below), Meg doesn't have anything to bring to the table.
I nearly threw the book at the end when Meg saves her brother with her love. Yes, the girl who fails her classes, wanders around clumsily, and constantly complains saves the day with her love.
I know, I know, it was the 60s. It was unusual to have a female main character in a sci-fi book. But still, sigh. It reinforces that girls are only tagalongs with domestic gifts in adventure stories.
Despite my objections, I'm glad this book exists. It's very alternative to something like Narnia or LOTR, even though it similarly mixes religion, fantasy, and science freely. In fact, that's precisely why it was on the list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenge Books during the 1990s. That's an automatic plus in my book.
Depictions of women aside, the master theme of the book is the dangers of conformity. It shows that a world that has removed the individual for simplicity's sake is one full of people easy to control.
"Just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the explanation doesn't exist."
"You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."
Do you remember reading this book? What did you think?