10 September 2007
It was with a certain sense of inevitability that I read the news of the death of Madeline L'Engle on Friday afternoon. When Lloyd Alexander passed earlier this year, I felt as if I was witnessing the dissolution of a special triumvirate that kick started a love of fantasy literature when I was in Middle School. Well, to be honest, I think it was simply a love of Lloyd, Madeline, and Susan (that would be Cooper,) because I certainly don't consider myself a big fantasy reader now. They just mastered the genre so expertly. I have continued to read these authors, even when I was beyond their intended audience. Or, should I say, the publishers' intended audience. Great books are written for all ages.
I loved how L'Engle's characters never went away, but would often cross between books to appear in someone else's story, even if only briefly. I think of Cannon Tallis, and Adam and Zach. Did they belong to the Austins or the Murray/O'Keefe's? They managed to ingratiate themselves into both worlds, just as they ingratiated themselves into mine.
L'Engle is best known for the Science Fiction classic A Wrinkle in Time (a constant source of inspiration--it took her ten years to get it published! There is still hope for me!) but my favorite L'Engle novel is The Young Unicorns.
Here, a brief must-read L'Engle bibliography:
The Young Unicorns
A Ring of Endless Light
Troubling a Star
A Wrinkle in Time
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
A House Like a Lotus
I will also put in a plug for Two-Part Invention: the Story of a Marriage, which is not a kids book, but a wonderfully personal glimpse into Madeline L'Engle's married life. She mastered fiction and she mastered non-fiction, and there was truth in everything she wrote.
Oh yes, and she was a librarian, too.