L'Engle's classic adapts well to audiobook. Review by S.K. Slevinski

Book Cover

In Print
With the conceptual vision of science fiction and the imaginative exploration of fantasy, Madeleine L'Engle's classic story of science, friendship and love moves into the future with a worthy audiobook production.

This novel tells the story of Meg Murray, a pre-teen girl who feels wretchedly out-of-place. She doesn't fit in at school, and despite her intelligence in math, she doesn't get good grades. She feels like a plain jane, and isn't very popular. But people in town talk more about her younger brother, Charles Wallace, a closet genius who seems mentally stunted to outside eyes because he is so quiet -- and they talk about her father, a government scientist who has not been heard from in over a year. The family is strained, feeling that their father may be dead. But one stormy evening, Charles Wallace introduces Meg and his mother to the peculiar Mrs. Whatsit; she looks like something of a kindly bag-lady, but together with her friends Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, she is actually an eternal being how has only taken human form. They have come to take Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin, on a journey through space, traveling within the fifth dimension of reality, in order to rescue Mr. Murray from the dark planet where he has been imprisoned.

Book Cover

On Audio
I must make an admission before I continue. A Wrinkle in Time and the following books with these characters were childhood favorites of mine. I decided to do this review both to see how this book holds up to my adult perspective and to see how it holds up on audiobook. While some of the themes are, perhaps, more transparent to me now, the book as a whole holds up quite excellently. While the basic conflict is one of good v. Evil, L'Engle approaches this conflict, not to solve it, but rather to show an ongoing battle worth fighting, a message likely more useful and affective for younger readers than many of the popular children's and young adult novels today. L'Engle also explores the themes of this novel in much more creative ways than most alternative reality fiction for younger readers. At once science fiction and fantasy, L'Engle grounds her characters' space travels in accessibly and quickly described scientific concepts, while transporting readers to worlds full of imagination. A few scenes seem to exist for the sole purpose of imaginal exploration, but L'Engle's writing style is one of economy (also, much too rare nowadays) and these exercises in imagination are only a brief sidetrack on the forward path of the plot. Her main character, Meg, is in many ways a typical pre-teen protagonist, wrestling with issues of not fitting in, of negotiating pending adulthood, but these issues are are dealt with and worked out in a realistic way. The characters surrounding Meg are complex and well-characterized, especially Charles Wallace, who may be one of the best characters in children's fiction. Barbara Caruso's reading on the audiobook is also quite good; understated and leaving much to the imagination. Her rendition of Mrs. Which's voice was not what I would have chosen as a producer of this audiobook, but for an otherwise excellent production, I have little to complain about.

Both children and adults looking for a brief (5 CDs) foray into imaginative literature on audiobook, I would highly recommend this production.

S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.

Alternative Reality Web Zine: ISSN# 1559-3037

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