(rating for the series overall)
The Time Quartet (series), by Madeleine L'Engle
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This review was originally written for The Templeton Gate.
I don't even remember anymore how long ago I started reading this 4-in-1 volume, which includes "A Wrinkle in Time," "A Wind in the Door," "A Swiftly Tilting Planet," and "Many Waters." It's certainly more than a year ago (this review was written in June 2006), and perhaps up to two years ago. All I know is, I'm very slow, and there are long stretches of time when I don't seem to find the time to read at all, somehow. I need to work on that. None of this, however, is germane to the purposes of this review ("Or is it?," he asked in an abstracted philosophical way), so it's a good thing I'm not paid to write things like this. In any event, I hope you won't take my sporadic reading habits as evidence of disinterest in the books, for that's not the case at all. They're actually rather good, if odd. In any event, of course I'll be skimming through the volume as I write this, and stopping for extended periods over various passages, refreshing my memory....
Anyway, I've been wanting to read "A Wrinkle in Time" for as long as I can remember, so I'm glad to have finally done so, as well as three of its sequels. L'Engle has written plenty of other books, of course, and there is a complicated family tree diagrammed in this omnibus... well, perhaps not complicated so much as confusing. They give the sense that various other books are set in this series, or at least somehow connected to it, some more directly than others. But I can't quite figure out... well, anything, really. I'd like to read more someday, but I've no idea where to start. I suppose that will bear further investigation in the future, but I really need to work on reading other stuff for awhile. If I ever get back to L'Engle, I'll be sure to let you all know.
Meanwhile, I wanted to say that I found it interesting looking at the original publishing dates of each of these books. The first is 1962, and I found it a bit surprising that a book I'd always had a sense of being, well, if not specifically targeted towards children, at least...well, it's for anyone, really. But I still sort of think of it as a children's book. And it talks about tesseracts. Which I'm pretty sure even now aren't understood all that well, though I'm no student of theoretical physics. I've barely heard of them at all, in a few modern works of fiction. So to be reading about them in an ostensible children's book written some forty years ago... like I said, a bit surprising, and impressive. The second book was published in 1973. Yes, eleven years after the first. The next in 1978, and the fourth in 1986. Seems quite a stretch of time, I think. The first two came out before I was born, and the last when I was 11. I suppose I'm still rambling on about utterly unimportant details, and not even managing to make any kind of point. Sorry. I think I might've had a point in mind when I started reading a couple years ago or whenever it was, so I should've started the review back then. I've never been good at foresight. But I do think I wanted to say that I have no clear idea of when the stories are set, except that I think it must be some time after the first one was written. Edit: A fifth book, "An Acceptable Time", was published in 1989, so the series is then called "The Time Quintet" rather than "Quartet", but the fifth book isn't included in the omnibus I read. Maybe I'll read it separately someday.
Now I suppose I should start actually talking a bit about the books themselves. So from here on, there may be quite a few spoilers. I'm afraid these stories are the sort that you can either say too much about, or not enough. At least, if there's a way to say just enough, it's beyond my skill, I'm afraid. So continue at your own peril, my friends! You've been warned. I'm sure, however, that it will still be well worth your time to read the books, even if you already know most of the important plot points....
A Wrinkle in Time