When anyone asks what were the books I read as a child, my answers have automatically been Jane Eyre, A Wrinkle In Time, and The Phantom Tollbooth. These were pretty heady books for a young reader but the voracious drive to read was insatiable. The list of books that I have read is ridiculously long. Most books have been forgotten through time but few have stood in my memory. Sometimes they were memorable, they changed some core perspective of life, a discovery of new emotions or ideas. Or for a reason that only the past will know.
Disney will be releasing in March 2018 a live adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time. It took about five viewings of the trailer to stop squeeing in fangirl overload happiness to realize, “wait, I don’t remember the story being like this.” For the sake of research and not losing my mind, this became a great opportunity to re-read the book that I cherished so strongly upon my memories.
A Wrinkle In Time is the first of five books in the series written by Madeleine L’Engle. Centered in this story is Meg Murry. She is a genius with a short temper ready to throw punches at any snide remarks about her missing father. Close to her is her brother, Charles Wallace Murry, who is also a genius but is too young to be in school. Then enters Calvin O’Keefe who is also a genius and just so happens to become involved. All three children quickly become acquainted with three beings: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs. Which. These three beings know where Meg’s father is and lead them through a journey through time and space to rescue him.
The first reaction I had when I started reading was the pleasant surprise and pride know of realizing that one of my earliest readings was of the science fiction realm. There are fantasy bits sprinkled here but it is heavily set in the science fiction world. I am absolutely dumbfounded on how my younger self could have understood it when adult me is still questioning what the heck did I just read. As an adult who had read countless of complicated science fiction novels since then, this novel was not complex or intricate. For my younger self, that may have been enough with my own ideas of what “evil” is and filling in whatever details are necessary. Adult me, is frustrated at the lack of everything.
To rescue Meg’s father, they are shown by the three beings, a glimpse of an evil to prepare them of what’s to come. Then they are deposited upon Camazotz — the area where Meg’s father was kept. They are greeted by a uniform neighborhood, with uniform children bouncing ball at the same time. According to the foreword by Anna Quindlen, this uniformity was to display the fear that Americans had of Communism upon US soil. It is by far the eeriest scene in the book as we see the child who “bounced” his ball out of time is severely punished later on.
Meg, Charlie, and Calvin move on to the CENTRAL Intelligence Building which has the most ominous title and presence in this novel. This is where everything in this world is filed and organized and where the brains of the operation, IT is located. It is all a cold and sterile environment. With each step forward, the sense of unease intensifies. So it is a huge letdown that Meg’s father is so easily rescued. There is a slight struggle, Meg snaps on the special spectacles from one of the beings and then they walk out. The kids literally reach in and pluck him out. IT may have wanted it that way but if not, no struggle, no soldiers, no alarm system, no memory loss from being plucked through? What’s he even doing in that cell? He was inside a column doing…what? Was he conscious or unconscious before Meg got there? Are we sure this is the father and not a clone? Was he in stasis? Was he being tortured?
Shoving all jokes referring to Pennywise aside, the villain of the whole book is with IT. We don’t know what being or matter IT is, other that that it can communicate telepathically and is the most feared system in Camazotz. It seems to take over minds pretty thoroughly. There is a creepy mental image of Charles Wallace being possessed by IT that is not sitting well mentally.
By far, the best part of the novel was the random planet that Meg’s father has tesseracted to blindly. .According to the novel, this tesseract ability is how space and time can be pinched to travel through. Apparently, this knowledge or ability that Meg’s father has in terms of the tesseract is what made him a prisoner. Although, the importance of Meg’s dad containing this knowledge seemed moot as IT gleefully attached itself to Charles. Compared to the great power this CENTRAL system has, the tesseract seems to pale in comparison. Since there are four more books, I can only assume these questions will be clarified later. No clarification is provided at all this first book.
Regardless of this seemingly important discovery, it did introduce us to Aunt Beast. Here is where the deep well of memories echoed back a recollection. I do remember reading about Aunt Beast and how even I was comforted by her presence. I still feel the same comfort in re-reading this as an adult. The aliens seem equine in nature covered in soft hair. Adult me is imagining a llama alien for no reason. For its abrupt appearance and randomness it, is the best creature of most alien description and I wanted more of Aunt Beast.
Overall, not a lot really happens. Kids are told where to go, they rescue father, they come back. I don’t remember how incredibly dramatic and loud Meg can be. She cries for almost everything. The final message of love was pretty sweet but still did not resolve any questions I had. Yet, I can still see how this would stick in my mind. This little book was able to weave concepts of physics and theory in an adventure story for young children.
Disregarding the obvious change in casting, nothing in the Disney trailer looks like anything from the book. So my earlier confusion was not too far off the mark. One immediately difference I picked up on was the scene with the uniform children bouncing balls. In the book the uniform children and mothers seemed more human but in the trailer, doesn’t the mother have the echoing sounds of a robot? It makes me wonder if they are going to eliminate the “communist” angle and more of a “robots are taking over the world” one.
The trailer definitely gave Meg a more sturdy backbone. Which I have no complaints about because, goodness, did this girl cry and throw a tantrum in the book.
“I want you to be a warrior” is a pretty clear indication that this will be a way more action-driven movie. Maybe Disney will fill in the holes the book left behind. Clearly what we will see on onscreen will not be like what we read in the novels. Disney took the adaption viewpoint very strongly.
It was an interesting trip back through time reading A Wrinkle In Time. I don’t recall much of the book except for how I felt after reading. Which is the same feeling as I have now: when can I meet Aunt Beast?