Book I: A WRINKLE IN TIME
I read A WRINKLE IN TIME for the first time in second grade, and would be willing to bet that WRINKLE was one of the first chapter books that I read, ever, though it was an assignment for school. Did L'Engle figure largely in my developement as a bibliophile? Most certainly, though I forgot about WRINKLE completely until I was nineteen.
That's when I read Walking on Water for the first time and, upon discovering that L'Engle was one smart lady, picked up her Time Quartet and read the whole thing in roughly a week. This is one of those series that I love, not only for its fantastic stories and huge concepts crammed into child-size characters, but because it is cozy and familiar to me--reading about Meg Murry's attic bedroom reminds me of reading WRINKLE on a wet fall day in our first apartment, snuggled into an afghan and sipping a cup of tea.
It's not just pleasant connotations that bring me back and back to The Time Quartet, however--L'Engle's interpretation of theology is fascinating, and I love that she flat out quotes Scripture in such fitting contexts as strange space creatures singing praises to God. She manages to write a great story without turning faith into an ambiguous allegory, but also without watering the book down to that lamest of lame genres, "Christian Fiction."
Aside from that, though, the story is just plain old good. Meg gets a little obnoxious at times, but L'Engle uses that to the tale's advantage, and counters nicely with the ever-amazing Charles Wallace. To top it off, it is my opinion that the Time books get better and better, with the fourth, Many Waters, being my absolutely favorite. Next up? Book Two: A Wind in the Door.
Book II: A WIND IN THE DOOR
This really is the sort of series that every time I reread it, I become convinced that whichever book I'm reading presently, be it Book I, II or otherwise, is my very favorite of the series. This time through, I developed a real fondness for A WIND IN THE DOOR, not least because of all the fascinating information L'Engle introduces through pint-sized characters. Her ability to reveal to the reader both science and theology in new and exciting ways but in a single image or character, astounds me. I respect L'Engle tremendously for this, and found it most apparent in WIND, as Meg, Calvin & Co. explore mitochonria and farolandae with the most excellent cherubim I've come across (in literature) yet.
Book III: A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET
Of the quartet, PLANET is probably my least favorite book, but only because the other three are so stinkin' rad. I find L'Engle's manipulation of time, and the interlocking, closely knit pattern of it, more and more interesting every time I read the book, but PLANET still seems a little more awkward than the rest of the series--mostly because I miss the Murrys, given that they're only present for maybe a third (half?) of the book, and some of the aspects of the plot seem a little too coincidental for me.
But that's all preference, and I'm sure I'd love PLANET too if it weren't dwarfed by the awesomeness of the other books. Maybe some day PLANET will even end up as my favorite, but for now my very favorite is still:
Book IV: MANY WATERS
Yup. MANY WATERS still won out, which is odd, since Sandy and Dennys remain my least favorite of the Murrys (again, only because the rest of the Murrys are so great). The book starts off pretty awkward, since the twins feel rough and undeveloped and are prone to stating the obvious, such as, "Well, we're the normal ones of the family," and "Well, our parents are scientists," and so on. But I only criticize the beginning because L'Engle wins me over so completely by the second chapter.
The twins' adventure to me seems the most beautiful of all the books, and the most packed with huge, difficult questions that L'Engle handles with tremendous grace. Add this to an interpretation of the story of Noah and the ark that goes above and beyond anything I could have dreamt, and you have yourself an excellent book. I re-read the entire quartet, really, just to get to this book. MANY WATERS is beautiful in seventeen different ways.