This children's classic was on a recent list of the top children's/YA books ever in Time magazine. Intrigued by the title I quickly found the book and devoured it immediately. It is strange, though a surprising joy to read. I would even argue it is a forerunner to Phillip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' as here is a children's novel, written in the early 60s, that references Einstein, atomic theory, God and quantum physics. If 'His Dark Materials' and 'The Chronicles of Narnia' could be warped to meet like two disparate ends of space-time, then 'A Wrinkle in Time' is the point of intersection.
Imagine Lucy is called Meg. Instead of going through a wardrobe she 'tesseracts' through space-time to other planets. On these other worlds the concept of God and love remains, although there is a cosmic resistance against the 'Black Thing'; a force of evil across the universe. Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, friend Calvin and three witches (Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which) find themselves part of this fight, which includes resisting the evil mind-bending attraction of a giant brain called IT.
If the plot sounds bonkers, you are right, but this is not to suggest that it is without meaning or moral. Like the best of children's books this operates on two levels; the superficiality of the story and the deeper understanding which tugs and gnaws at you, probing for greater answers. L'Engle, unlike Pullman, is spiritually searching for God in the complexity of the cosmos. What binds us and creates us is love. What pulls us apart and destroys us is hate. According to the story there is one such 'Black Thing' overshadowing Earth. It is only through the quest for enlightenment and understanding, ultimately love, that the darkness can be pierced with light. Jesus Christ is cited as a figure that holds this darkness at bay, but Einstein is also noted among other figures of history. This is what makes the book so interesting. If Lewis found God in Narnia and in the form of a lion, then L'Engle finds God in the folds of dimensions and through the language of history.
All of this may go over children's heads. Indeed most children will read 'A Wrinkle in Time' and make comparisons with Doctor Who. After all, there are tesseracts, a Mrs Who and a city of geometric weirdness. However, there is much to debate. Some may say the book is dated, but I would love to know what Pullman and L'Engle might have said to each other today. Or perhaps Lucy, Meg and Lyra are simply opposing points of space, triangulating and folding into one complex beast.
If you love Narnia and 'His Dark Materials' then leap into 'A Wrinkle in Time'.