Frankly, I wish I had read this when I was 10 or 11 because I would have obsessed over it and bought every book in the series. Still a great book to read as an adult, but the magic of it all is probably far more engaging when read by a child. The book itself is fairly well known and it makes me wonder why it was never recommended to me. I tore through Redwall, devoured the Merlin Saga, read and reread the Ender’s Game series and the Harry Potter series and was generally in love with fantasy, scifi and adventure. It is curious to me that this book was not among those recommended to me as a child.
The book is at once a mysterious riddle, laden with physics and mathematics, and a story of adventure and family. It’s protagonist, thirteen year-old Meg is both frustratingly emotional and incredibly brave. At times I wanted to slap her and tell her to pull her shit together, so her turn from a constant damsel in distress to the hero and savior of herself and her family, was a welcome but not wholly unexpected plot twist (come on let’s be honest, she is the protagonist so she was clearly going to do something heroic). The gender roles of the book are a mismatch to the period in which it was written, they are loosened and adjusted to give the male characters more emotional and supportive roles than what I might expect from a story written in the early 1960s. The book plays with these stereotypes and the author characterizes both male protagonists, Calvin and Charles, as incredibly vulnerable and emotional, while Meg, though emotional fails to process and understand her own emotions. Meg is also a mathematical genius (girls are good at math!) and is the most competent at understanding logic, which makes her character an anomaly among female protagonists.
The one aspect of the book that I was not sure about was the underlying vein of religion. It rubbed me the wrong way and didn’t seem to fit the theme and structure of the book. A family of scientists and intellectuals with strong faith, although I am sure such families exist, seems odd and out of place. Charles Wallace’s deep connection with some sort of god is disturbing in many ways (possibly because he is so easily brainwashed later in the book) and I was uncomfortable with the concept despite having grown up Catholic. That though is possibly just me, but despite being uncomfortable with it, the religion isn’t highlighted in a way that would make me hesitant to recommend it. The book with or without religion is worth a read, especially with a new movie in the works.
Up Next: We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (4/5)