Yes, I’m one of those; I was going to reread A Wrinkle in Time because the movie is coming out, even before the book club announcement. I mean, I’m going to see it anyway (whenever my country gets it) because I trust Ava DuVernay, but I wanted to familiarize myself with the original again in advance. I first picked up the book in fourth grade, and I confess I did not appreciate at the time the opening line of “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Taking a fresh look, I missed a lot of things then, but that didn’t stop me from loving it. After all, what more could a sheltered elementary schooler want? Meg had a loving family but got to adventure a bit without parental supervision. There was peril but good triumphed. Aliens but they were mostly friendly. Flying centaur angels!! (I was most excited about the last one.)
Dropping in on the story quite a number of years later, the view changes a bit, though flying centaur angels are still pretty sweet. For one, after several thousand-page volumes of sprawling fantasy, it’s surprisingly short and simple, a gentle reminder that problems can be fought and defeated in under 200 pages sometimes too. At risk of sounding ancient, I was also surprised at the reminder that the characters are so young! The twins are eight!
Then again, for all that adults chuckle about how creative and imaginative children are, I think we also sometimes forget how rich and complex their inner lives are, but L’Engle certainly does not. As much as the story is about the children stepping through fantastical worlds and facing down the forces of evil, we also get just as much insight into Meg’s turbulent pre-adolescence, her hopes, and her disappointments. Watching Meg conflate the possible end of the world with her parents’ perceived failures certainly rang an uncomfortably familiar bell for this former dramatic teenager (former teenager, still dramatic.)
To dip into spoilers and perhaps incriminate myself as a cynical adult, I was not quite swept away by the “all you need is love” ending. In a time where those who cannot or will not conform with and bend to a hostile system are standing up and fighting furious, exhausting battles for their rights and survival, screaming “I love you” is a radical act but does not make the oppression melt away. It’s one thing if it’s campy and tongue in cheek like The Fifth Element, but A Wrinkle in Time is unflinchingly earnest. Not entirely convinced, I then wondered if my skepticism made me too jaded and had a quiet Monday morning crisis for five minutes. I still found the reunion at the end touching, though, so that helped a little.