The classic children’s novel ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle is radically different to anything else I’d normally read. First of all, it’s a science-fiction novel involving time travel, dark forces and hideous monsters. As a rule, I find such characters and plot devices quite laughable, because they are designed for children, after all. This novel, however, is different.
Despite (or perhaps because of) being written in a simple way for children between 8 and 12 yet pleasant, A Wrinkle in Time still touches on issues that kids probably aren’t exposed to normally, and that older readers can also gain a lot from. Some of the themes in the novel are relevant to people of all ages, namely the idea of using your supposed flaws as your biggest strengths. In this novel, this message is proved brilliantly through the protagonist, young Meg Murry, who has to learn how to use the characteristics that people shun her for to succeed in her quest. At the beginning, Meg doesn’t fit in and is seen as being an idiotic troublemaker by her teachers and neighbours, when that is not the case. Her father, a brilliant scientist, has been missing for years. Local gossipers believed that Mr Murry had simply run away with another woman but Mrs Murry, also a dedicated scientist, still hints at her belief that he will come back to the family eventually. Despite her own suspicions about his disappearance she cannot quite explain to her children where he is or why they have not heard for him for so long.
This is where Mrs Whatsit enters the story. At first seeming to be a disheveled hobo, it is she who leads Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace (who is mistakened for being ‘slow-developing’ but is actually a hugely intelligent child) and their friend Calvin. Mrs Whatsit and her equally bemusing friends lead Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin on their journey to rescue Mr Murry from the clutches of an unimaginable evil, thereby discovering the full extent of evil throughout the universe.
With all sorts of wonderful symbolism about the real-life problems that planet Earth is facing as well as each character realising things about vanity, communication and using your flaws as strengths, this novel is the perfect book in that it is relevant to children as well as adults.