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Creator / Madeleine L'Engle

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“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

Madeleine L'Engle (née Camp, November 29, 1918 – September 6, 2007) was an American writer of Young Adult Literature best-known for A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels.

Most of her novels belong to one of two sequences, referred to as "Kairos" and "Chronos", from the two ancient Greek words for time. "Chronos" refers to chronological or sequential time, while "Kairos" signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. (Although both sequences contain speculative elements, the Chronos sequence is primarily realistic, while the Kairos sequence, which includes A Wrinkle in Time, is clearly sf/fantasy.)

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  • Austin family novels
    1. Meet the Austins (1960)
    2. The Moon by Night (1963)
    3. The Young Unicorns (1968)
    4. A Ring of Endless Light (1980)
    5. The Anti-Muffins (1980)note 
    6. The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas (1984)
    7. Troubling a Star (1994)
    8. A Full House: An Austin Family Christmas (1999)

Additional tropes:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: And no boy is a clearer example than Zachary Gray, who appears in The Moon by Night, A Ring of Endless Light, A House Like a Lotus, and An Acceptable Time. His bad-boy appeal transcends series; he gets involved with both Vicky Austin and Polly O'Keefe.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: This is discussed regarding her father's decision to save Kali from a shark-mauling rather than leave her to die from her wounds in agony, with the research she was trying to steal no less. Polly holds a grudge against Kali for lying to Adam, being complicit in her kidnapping, and getting Joshua killed. She says that Kali showed no remorse for any of those actions, and that she didn't care about the harm that she caused, with her father's influence not being an excuse. Calvin and Adam point out that Adam could have easily gotten mauled by the shark, and Joshua got killed while saving Adam from the Cutters. Adam says that it doesn't matter what someone did was terrible, rather how you choose to respond to it
  • Buy Them Off: In The Young Unicorns, they learn at the end that the doctor who had done so much to help Emily after she had been blinded — had been the person to blind her. (Albeit accidentally.)
  • Canon Welding: L'Engle first connected her "Kairos" and "Chronos" series when Canon Tallis from Kairos novel The Arm of the Starfish appears in the Chronos novel The Young Unicorns; several characters from each series would cross over later.
  • Character Overlap: The Kairos and Chronos sequences are connected by several supporting characters — including Canon Tallis and Zachary Gray — who appear in both, as well as in some of L'Engle's other works.
  • Deadpan Snarker: She was once asked in an interview if the 2004 version of Wrinkle lived up to her expectations.
    Yes. I expected it to be bad, and it was.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: At the end of A House Like a Lotus, Polly has a dream of going into the cave of Blessed Theola, a long-dead mystic. Polly, in the dream, understands that her vision of bubbles holding galaxies, and a loving hand holding the bubbles, was Theola's vision of divine love (in this case, it's more metaphorical truth than factual reality.)
  • Dreaming the Truth: In The Other Side of the Sun, Stella (an Englishwoman) goes to live with her husband's father in the Deep South shortly after The American Civil War. After a dream involving fireflies and her husband metamorphizing into a (black) man she had met there, she wakes to the realization that her husband and this man are half-brothers.
  • Dude Magnet: In her young adult novels, both Vicky and Polly qualify.
  • Dude, She's A Lesbian: A non-romantic variant in A House Like a Lotus, where Polly's parents have to explain to her that Max, her mentor and friend, is in fact a lesbian, and it matters because people might start to think Polly is one, too.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In The Young Unicorns, it is mentioned that the Bishop has stopped performing sacraments, choosing to delegate these duties. It's a subtle foreshadowing that the Bishop is an imposter — the real Bishop's brother — and his refusal stems from the fact that — in the eyes of the Episcopal Church, he would be committing a sacrilege, not to mention the fact that his sacraments would be invalid (meaning people wouldn't really be married, baptized, given communion, etc.)
  • Friendly, Playful Dolphin: Vicky in A Ring of Endless Light helps out at an institute studying dolphins and trying to figure out how to communicate with them—bordering on Sapient Cetaceans. The dolphins aren't all sweetness and light though—one dolphin loses her calf and goes into spasms of grief, slamming herself against the walls of her pool.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: Four of L'Engle's books were revised for later editions - And Both Were Young (1949) was revised and reissued with new material in 1983; Camilla Dickinson (1951) was re-edited and rereleased in 1965 as Camilla; Meet the Austins (1960) had the cut chapter "The Anti-Muffins" (previously released as a separate story in 1980) reincorporated into it in 1997; and The Love Letters (1966) was revised and reissued as Love Letters in 2000.
  • Giver of Lame Names: Canon Tallis, who is given the honor of naming Meg and Calvin O'Keefe's first child. He comes up with Polyhymnia. It's a lovely name with a lovely meaning (referring to holy music), but it's laughably inappropriate for 1960's America, and no one knows how to spell or pronounce it. The girl goes by "Polly" in later life. (Meg and Calvin never let him name another kid.)
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Subverted in A Ring of Endless Light. Vicky and Leo discuss how being close to death has made them more interested in expressing life. Leo uses this as a come-on (including mentioning that his parents had sex as part of their mourning process), but Vicky isn't interested.
    Vicky: Why have I been so hungry?
    Leo: Because eating is part of life. So is loving.
    Vicky: Let's concentrate on eating, then.
  • Happy Ending Override: Troubling a Star brings back the fictional country of Vespugia from A Swiftly Tilting Planet and reveals that the events of the latter book only delayed the country's dictatorial government from coming to power by about 10 or 15 years, rather than averting it entirely. Downplayed, though, in that Guedder, the dictator in Troubling A Star is a conventional Latin American caudillo rather than an Omnicidal Maniac who sought to start a nuclear war, like Mad Dog Branzillo was in A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Kali Cutter manipulates Adam, steals his passport, and reveals that any affection she had for him was undercut by the fact that she wanted the O'Keefe's regeneration research for her father. Because of him, a family friend named Joshua gets shot and killed. Adam then goes to her to get his passport back, and she runs into the water to invite him to chase her. A shark mauls Kali, forcing Adam to save her. Even then, only the O"Keefe regeneration research is what saves her, showing that all of her evil works were for nothing
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: In The Love Letters, Charlotte fled to Portugal because when she told her husband she was pregnant, he had asked her who the father was. (It was him.)
  • Orgasmatron: The Young Unicorns has a young-adult-friendly version of the trope: a Micro-Ray that can directly stimulate the pleasure center of the brain. The experience is described as feeling like flying.
  • Questionable Consent: In A House Like a Lotus Renny, a medical student who is several years older than sixteen-year-old Polly, has sex with her when she is in shock over a traumatic event and in his care. Polly, the narrator, doesn't act like Renny did anything wrong, but to modern eyes, he definitely did.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: L'Engle was very interested in the question, and though she believed in a divine Providence, she didn't shy away from characters who are justifiably cynical. A Ring of Endless Light is a good example, where Suzy has firmly decided that Humans Are Bastards, but Vicky spends the book on a search for meaning in a world with so much pain.
  • Taking the Veil: In A Severed Wasp, a minor character has this as her backstory — after her divorce.
  • The 'Verse: Besides the eight Murray-O'Keefe books and the Austin stories, several of L'Engle's other books are part of this continuity:
    • The novels The Small Rain (1945) and A Severed Wasp (1982) have Katherine Forrester as the protagonist (as an adolescent in The Small Rain and an old woman, now widowed, in A Severed Wasp); she also appears in the Chronos novel A Ring of Endless Light as a pianist at a concert that Vicky and Zach attend, identified only by her married name of Vigneras.
    • The novel Ilsa (1946) features Ilsa Brandes as the protagonist; the novel also introduces the Renier family, who are prominent in the Kairos novels Dragons in the Waters and A House Like a Lotus.
    • The novel And Both Were Young (1949; later reissued with alterations in 1983) has Philippa "Flip" Hunter as the protagonist; Katherine Forrester owns one of her paintings in A Severed Wasp.
    • The novels Camilla Dickinson (1951; later reissued with alterations as Camilla in 1965) and A Live Coal in the Sea (1996) have the titular Camilla Dickinson as the protagonist; Camilla's best friend is Luisa Rowan, whose older brother Frank appears in the Kairos novel A House Like a Lotus.
    • The novel A Winter's Love (1957) features Virginia Bowen Porcher as the protagonist; she is one of Polly O'Keefe's favorite authors in A House Like a Lotus and is married to Henri Porcher, a descendant of Henry Porcher from Ilsa. Virginia's best friend is Mimi Oppenheimer, who reappears in A Severed Wasp as a neighbor of Katherine Forrester Vigneras.
    • The novel The Other Side of the Sun (1971) includes members of the Renier family, who were introduced in Ilsa.
    • The novel Certain Women (1992) features Emma Wheaton as the protagonist and includes an appearance by Canon John Talis, who was introduced in The Arm of the Starfish and also appeared in The Young Unicorns and Dragons in the Waters.
    • The only novels not explicitly part of this continuity are:
      • The Love Letters (1966; revised and reissued in 2000 as Love Letters), which stars Charlotte Napier; Certain Women has Emma Wheaton perform in a play featuring a scene from Charlotte's life, implying The Love Letters is a work of in-universe fiction.
      • The Joys of Love (2008) follows four days in the life of Elizabeth Jerrold in the 1940s and has no known links to L'Engle's other works.