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Book a Month Challenge – Time

(I’m a bit late with this review, but I plead work-related travel.)

The January challenge was to read & review a book on the theme of time. I rather randomly chose Madeleine L’Engle’s An Acceptable Time off a shelf of kids’ fiction at the library. I remember enjoying A Wrinkle in Time when I was a child and I am always looking for books to read to M, so this seemed it might be a good candidate. A time gate to 3000 years ago opens and a teen girl gets pulled into various dramas at both ends — could be a good story!

But no, I think not. “Ponderous” sums it up. The characters are one-dimensional. The good guys are indefatigably good, the bad guys are, you know, bad, the religious guy never loses or even questions his faith, the plot is obvious and everyone speaks in the most tortured expository dialogue.

“We need more than an encyclopedia to explain Nase’s opening a time threshold.” Mr. Murry blew through a long, thin pipe and the flames flared up brightly. “And Polly’s involvement in it. It’s incomprehensible.”

“It’s not the first incomprehensible thing that’s happened in our lifetime,” his wife reminded him.

“Have things ever been as weird as this?”

Her grandmother laughed. “Yes, Polly, they have, but that doesn’t make this any less weird.”

Mr. Murry stood up creakily. “Polly’s friend Zachary strikes me as adding a new and unexpected component. Why is this comparative stranger seeing people from three thousand years ago that you and I have never seen?”

“Nobody told him about her,” Mrs. Murry said, “so he didn’t have time to put up a wall of disbelief.”

“Is that what we’ve done?”

“Isn’t it? And isn’t it what Louise has done?”

“So it would seem.”

They get dramatically upset about minor incidents and accept major oddities in passing (a dog appears through the time gate and basically the response is “[shrug] well, we needed a new dog”. Hello?). There’s some interesting science and physics mentioned but it isn’t used to advance the plot at all; everyone’s just carried along helplessly by the plot, expounding ponderously all the while.

It’s aimed at preteens, I imagine. I’m not sure how well that would work. Perhaps it’s about right. The language is reasonably high-level and so are some of the concepts mentioned, but since they have no real bearing on the plot it doesn’t much matter if they’re fully understood by the reader. Perhaps a ten-year-old would find it Deep.

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