Friday, July 8, 2011

Fiction Friday: The OTHER L'Engle Series

Madeleine L'Engle is one of my favorite authors.  She's most well-known for penning the Newbery Award winning novel, A Wrinkle in Time, which just so happens to be my favorite work of fiction.  L'Engle wrote a lot of YA novels, but she also wrote several novels for adults, some books for younger readers, as well as some non-fiction and autobiography.  The Crosswick Journals contain some of the most interesting Spiritual reading I've ever encountered.  I definitely don't agree with L'Engle on every theological view she ever had, but when she got it right, she got it right.

It seems that anyone who has heard of L'Engle automatically starts thinking about A Wrinkle in Time, which is only natural, since I do the same thing.  I think it's sad, however, that a lot of people who have read (or at least heard of) A Wrinkle in Time haven't read anything else by her.  There are three other books in the Time Quartet series (A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters) that are incredible.

Another YA series she wrote often crossed over into the Time Quartet, even though it was centered around another family.  More precisely, it was centered around another character--Vicky Austin.  The majority of the Austin Family books are told in first person from her perspective.  The most widely-known book featuring Vicky Austin is A Ring of Endless Light (which was a Newbery Honor Book, just sayin').

While A Wrinkle in Time (and the other books in the series) dealt with time travel and other science fiction/fantasy themes, most of what happened in the lives of the Austins was much more realistic.  Even without the fantastical elements, L'Engle managed to weave together a series of stories about a remarkable character within a remarkable family. 

Vicky Austin (who, incidently, spells Vicky the right way--the way my mama does) didn't have to travel halfway across the universe to experience adventure (though she did travel across the country in The Moon By Night).  She experienced all the struggles of growing up--sibling rivalry, first lust and/or love, grief, death, finding one's own faiths and beliefs.  While the socially awkward sci fi nerd in me has to love Meg Murray just a little bit more than any other fictional character, I have to say that I'm impressed (and insanely jealous) at how genuine and believable of a character Vicky Austin is.  L'Engle had a way of honestly expressing herself through her characters that made them live. 

The other members of the Austin family were also believable and interesting.  What I also appreciated was how different characters (like Canon Tallis, Adam Eddington, and the darkly intriguing Zachary Gray--read L'Engle books if you want to know more about them) would appear in stories about the Murray family and in stories about the Austin Family.  It's like when you're talking to a friend and suddenly that friend mentions another one of your friends, and you didn't even realize those two people knew each other. 

If you've never read anything by Madeleine L'Engle, or if you have only read the obligatory A Wrinkle in Time, I strongly recommend the Austin Family books (starting, oddly enough, with Meet the Austins).  And while you're at it, make sure you've read the rest of the Time Quartet.  They're pretty much amazing.

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