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justice_turtle ([personal profile] justice_turtle) wrote in [community profile] readallthenewberys2014-10-02 10:31 am

Newbery Medal: A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle), Part 2

And then I finished the book in the scraps of time while waiting for my interwebs to load, so the rest of this liveblog is technically more of a re-read. *shrugs*

* When we left Meg on page 4 of this edition, she was thinking to herself, "Why do I always have to show [my emotions]?"

* There's a kitten on her pillow. It yawns and goes back to sleep, sending her off on another mental tangent about how everyone is asleep except herself, even her littlest brother Charles Wallace, the intellectually differently-abled kid about whom Meg's schoolmates were hassling her. Charles usually has an "uncanny" knack of knowing when Meg is sitting up late having these bouts of... depression or anxiety or teenage angst, whatever one would call them, and will often come up to her room when she's feeling this way, but tonight he hasn't.

* Meg tells the kitten to be glad it's "not a monster like me", which -- she seems to have pretty thoroughly internalized all the bullshit people are giving her, to believe that everything wrong in her life is solely her own fault. That kind of thinking makes me twitch; in my own experience, it's often an indicator that one is being emotionally abused, essentially having thoughts put into one's head. (There was a Diana Wynne Jones novel where somebody had had a magical thornbush invisibly planted in their pillow so that every time they lay down to rest, all the self-loathing thoughts in their head would get reinforced and make them more depressed. Diana Wynne Jones was a motherfucking genius.)

So, yeah. I'm rather glad this is a sci-fi novel and not an ordinary psychological drama one, because I'd be pretty damn apprehensive about its triggering potential for me if it was the latter. Skiffy is so much easier to distance myself from.

* Anyway, now we get a physical description of Meg as she looks at herself in the mirror - braces, glasses, "mouse-brown" hair short enough to stand on end when she runs her fingers through it. She's making a "horrible face", seeing herself as a monster, so at least she doesn't seem to be taking her self-description as "a monster like me" as seriously as I sure would have at... her age? What is she, pre-teen, mid-teens? The book hasn't told me, except that she goes to a school which lets out an hour later than the one her ten-year-old brothers attend. So something like middle-school or high-school age, depending whether middle school was a thing in 1963.

(On my first read-through I was thinking at this point that the story was set in England, because it feels far more like an England-fantasy the whole way through, but there are enough references to American things like Cape Canaveral and Washington DC that now I'm mostly just confused. ;P)

* Meg hears the family's "big black dog", Fortinbras, barking downstairs. Recalling some local gossip about "a tramp who was supposed to have stolen twelve sheets from Mrs. Buncombe, the constable's wife", she gets up and starts to head downstairs.

* At this point I wander off to research Madeleine L'Engle's background, since that's the sentence that put my assumptions on this book firmly into "set in England" territory1. Turns out she was born in New York, but spent much of her youth traveling with her family, and even attended a boarding school in Switzerland for some time. So she's not going to sound purely USian.

1: "Tramp" by itself could be a USian turn of phrase. "Buncombe" is a surname of English/British origin, which I associate with villagers in cosy hamlets or some such lower-class-but-respectable thing; I've never seen it appear in a story set in the US before. "Constable" is simply not a word that has any standardized meaning here!)

* Okay. Seriously, though, that was confusing the first time through; the only definite indicator that the Earthbound portions of the story take place in the US is that the government Mr Murry's working for is associated with Washington DC, not London. O_O

* Meg heads downstairs, bumping into various things on the way, and feeling sorry for herself as she does so. "Why must everything happen to me?" she demanded of a large teddy bear." Fortinbras the dog has stopped barking, so she feels assured that the rumored tramp is not breaking into their house, but she's still worrying.

* In the kitchen Meg finds Charles Wallace - I'm still not clear, even after finishing the book once, whether his full name is Charles Wallace Murry and he goes by "Charles Wallace" like Christopher Robin Milne by "Christopher Robin", or what. Anyway, Charles Wallace is "a blond little boy in faded blue Dr. Dentons" - I'd assumed those were a brand of blue jeans, like Levis, but apparently they're footie pajamas. CW is eating bread and jam and drinking milk. He says to Meg, "I've been waiting for you."

* Fortinbras, under the table hoping for crumbs, also wags his tail hello. The Murrys adopted him as a half-grown puppy; Mr Murry thinks he's part Llewellyn setter (that is, an English setter; the Llewellyn name refers officially to a specific bloodline) and part greyhound.

* Meg asks Charles why he didn't come up to her room. He says he knew she'd be down, and has put some milk on the stove to warm up for her. We get a tangent about how CW always knows what Meg and Mrs Murry are feeling, though he doesn't seem to bother with understanding Sandy and Dennys the same way. Mr Murry told Meg before he left that she and CW are extremely intelligent but have a nonstandard pace of development. I... could go off on a tangent myself, about how Mr Murry's remarks in Meg's memory open with "Don't worry about Charles Wallace; there's nothing the matter with his mind", and how Charles, though he didn't speak till he was almost four years old, now speaks and appears to think at a level of maturity similar to or greater than Meg's own. It's -- it reads as being annoyingly close to the whole Rain-Man sort of trope, the kid whose development is abnormal enough that Bad People Who Don't Understand feel uncomfortable and call him bad names, but who is actually no trouble at all to his family and is a major genius in ways that the average reader can recognize as being standardly intelligent. Blargh. I hate that whole -- like, am I making any sense? That the developmentally disabled kid has to be Officially Not A Burden At All, the very reverse of a burden, caretaking those who try to take care of him, and also has to have some kind of ~speshulness~ to make up for how he's not Normal. Blagh. :PPPPP I hate that.

* Okay. So Charles Wallace is a special empathetic hyperintelligent snowflake, and apparently Meg is more of the same but doesn't feel like it? Or something? *sigh* Moving on.

* Ah, the warm milk is for cocoa. CW put on enough for both Meg and Mrs Murry, who now shows up. While CW makes sandwiches - liverwurst and cream cheese for Mrs Murry, tomato for Meg - Mrs Murry examines the bruise Meg got on her face from fighting that day. We get another focus on Meg's feelings; she admires her mother, but also resents how Mrs Murry is both a famous scientist in her own right (I'm using "Mr" and "Mrs" because both the Murry parents are Dr Murry and it would confuse me) and a stunning beauty with "flaming red hair, creamy skin, and violet eyes with long dark lashes". Meg feels "outrageously" plain-looking by comparison, especially since she got her hair cut short when she started high school and now can't find a style where it looks good at all.

* Meg talks to her mom about how she hates "feeling like an oddball" and trying to act normal, how she feels that it's hard on Sandy and Dennys to be the only normal-passing ones in the family, how she feels "repulsive-looking". Mrs Murry is sympathetic, but feels that Mr Murry would be able to help Meg better than she can at this point.

* Charles Wallace interjects that since Mrs Murry is beautiful, she was probably awful-looking at Meg's age. Mrs Murry agrees with this assessment. I feel like there's a tangent I want to go off on about that, too - probably several tangents, about CW's unlikely adult-esque wisdom, about beauty culture, about the ugly duckling trope in this specific incarnation where you have to be an ugly teenager in order to turn into a swan (god, I hate literally everything about culturally imposed norms for female-bodied teenagers, EVERYTHING, with the fiery hatred of a million burning suns)...

...I have no idea why Mrs Murry is this ridiculously gorgeous whatever. It doesn't seem to have any application to the story, except that when Calvin shows up he's going to make a really uncomfortable remark about how Mr Murry couldn't possibly have run off with another woman because Mrs Murry is so gorgeous *tears hair*, and I get seriously uncomfortable with fiction where lady-types are stunningly gorgeous for no apparent plot reason. It's just so... such a... like, you know? :P It's one of those Chekov's Gun things, almost; that anything mentioned about a female character has to have a Reason to be there, not just for characterization or scene-setting, but a plotty reason that is going to get shot off by act three.

Which I don't know if it says more about me or Madeleine L'Engle or who, that last couple of paragraphs, but I've been working on this post for two hours, so I think I'll post it and go take a walk. :P
pedanther: (Default)

[personal profile] pedanther 2014-10-03 02:33 am (UTC)(link)
In another Newbery winner you haven't got to yet, there's a character who's actually named Dr. Denton, which caused a fair amount of amusement among the American contingent when we read it for another online book club I'm part of.