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A Swiftly Tilting Planet – by Madeleine L’Engle

December 6, 2011

A Swiftly Tilting PlanetIt occurs to me that I must have originally read this before the start of my obsession with all things Welsh. Otherwise I would have remembered the heavy involvement of Wales, and perhaps been fonder of the book in general. Not to say that I didn’t like it, but I don’t remember loving it quite as deeply as A Wrinkle in Time and Many Waters. Reading it a second time, I found myself quickly falling in love with the characters and story all over again, but my enthusiasm diminished a bit as the book went on – I think because there is just so much going on that even now I have trouble sorting it all out.

The Murry family’s Thanksgiving dinner is interrupted by a phone call from the White House for Mr. Murry. A threat of nuclear war is imminent, and Charles Wallace feels it is his responsibility to stop it from happening by using an old rune which calls a unicorn to his side.  Together, they move through history, searching for connections between past and present and for the might-have-been which could prevent disaster.

I adore Charles Wallace and the rest of the Murry family, and there are so many things to love here: time travel, Wales, Ananda and the importance of joy, and Meg’s insistence that yes, it would make a difference, universally speaking, if Earth were to be destroyed. However, something keeps me from loving the book as much as I should. Partly, it’s the fact that I listened to the audio version this time around, which is read by the author, and was disappointed that Madeleine L’Engle didn’t really know how to pronounce the word Cymru, which is the Welsh word for Wales (I mean, most people don’t, but I would have expected her to learn, especially if she was going to read the audio version of the book). The other problem, I think, is that the narrative gets a little lost in the philosophy and the convoluted mythology/history that Charles Wallace and Meg are trying to piece together. As I mentioned, there’s a lot going on. That said, it’s a beautiful book and certainly well worth a read, particularly as a part of L’Engle’s Time Quintet.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2011 12:54 am

    I had the same problem with it: there’s just too much going on to keep it straight. Not meaning it’s bad, just that it doesn’t come together quite as well as the earlier ones. Still, I loved the writing and the characters. Had the plot been more focused, it’d have been my favorite of the first three in the Time Quintet (I still haven’t read the final two). I mean, a time-traveling flying unicorn! How cool is that?

    • aftran permalink
      December 7, 2011 3:13 pm

      Yeah, it has such potential. And I think there’s simultaneously too much going on and not enough, because for all the time-traveling and what not, it doesn’t feel like Charles Wallace and the people he goes Within actually do very much. There’s not a lot of action, and I’m still a bit confused as to what Charles actually did to change the might-have-been.

      • December 8, 2011 12:16 pm

        Another good point. I never quite understood what his actual objective was, either.

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