Tag Archives: Madeleine L’Engle

My Holiday Book Haul

5 Jan

On my way back to London from Toronto, I was forced to take an extra piece of luggage. While it’s true that half of this suitcase was filled with cheese, maple syrup, and leftover beauty booty (translation: fancy shampoo from my old job), the rest of it was crammed with books, both new gifts and beloved oldies that I rescued from the bookshelf of left-behind books. 

I got some pretty good stuff this year, including the Wrinkle in Time boxed set (I used its pretty artwork in my first ever post) and Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness. I also scored this customizable Pride & Prejudice. Gimmicky? Yes. Awesome? Yes. My friend was smart enough to know that the best part would be choosing the new character names, so she left that up to me. I’m really tempted to call Mr Darcy “Mr. Darsehole,” after this guy in my hometown who would always sniff around high school girls well into his 30s. Anyway. 

It’s also worth mentioning that there was a fair amount of book swapping between the family, something my parents started last year by giving each of us a book they already owned that they thought we would like (I got Marina Lewycka’s Two Caravans, which on my North American copy is called Strawberry Fields). It’s a nice way for me to unload some of my book collection without feeling like I’m actually giving it up (it may have been Christmas, but I’m not really all that generous).

A Girl Who Read Madeleine L’Engle When She Was Small

17 Sep

dark and stormy l'engle

I got an inkling that I might want to write this blog when I read this New Yorker profile of the late great Madeleine L’Engle, written by Cynthia Zarin.

The article keeps coming back to the point that L’Engle’s personal life influenced her writing and vice versa (and a little too much, in both cases). The friends and family that Zarin interviews make the claim that L’Engle had a hopeless habit of confusing truth and fiction – that her autobiographical work is full of misleading half-truths, but that her sci-fi YA books actually hit closer to home.

I’d never even stopped to consider that a book like A Wrinkle in Time, complete with a fifth dimension called a tesseract and a character named Mrs. Whatsit, would be based on real people and places (to be fair, I was probably in grade 2 and instead busy considering whether I could con my friend into sharing her fruit roll-up). In this instance, the fuzzy line between life and art was very hard on L’Engle’s family, but I can’t help but love the idea of the everyday making its way into the fantastic. It makes me wonder about the real-life stories and quirks behind my other favourite reads. Does Nick Hornby have to write his drafts in 14-point Comic Sans? Does Margaret Atwood ever use dictionary.com to find a cracker-jack synonym? What’s Goodnight Moon really about?

As a side note, Zarin writes that she remembers an old college friend saying:

“There are really two kinds of girls. Those who read Madeleine L’Engle when they were small, and those who didn’t.”

This little edict really appeals to my inner snob. And yeah, if someone also grew up reading A Ring of Endless Light and Camilla, we probably share a few other similarities. Although, the main one would probably be: nerdy liberal teacher parents who bought you stacks of books, told you that you were a very smart little girl, and eventually encouraged you to major in English Lit.


[artwork by Taeeun Yoo for the Wrinkle in Time quintet boxed set.]