counter on blogger

Pickle Me This

September 11, 2019

An Acceptable Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

When one day I’m asked the inevitable question: “What was the best thing that you did in 2019, Kerry?”, the answer is going to be: I resolved to read a whole pile of books by Madeleine L’Engle. I owe so much to whomever designed the nice looking recentish paperback editions of L’Engle’s Austin series, and to the librarian who decided to purchase them for the library where I was searching out middle grade titles for my daughter. And there they were—Meet the Austins, The Moon By Night, and The Young Unicorns. I’d dabbled in L’Engle’s Austin series years ago, although her Wrinkle in Time series was more foremost in my mind and I still even have the first three novels in my collection. Without those spiffy library paperbacks, I probably wouldn’t have partaken, but they were good looking, so I signed out all three, and imagined that Harriet and I would read them together.

I passed on to her Meet the Austins, but then I read the next book in the series and decided that Harriet probably wouldn’t appreciate the rest. When she’s a little bit older, and a bit less prone to being spooked about the possibility of nuclear annihilation. It turned out these were novels for me after all, and I loved them. As L’Engle’s A Swiftly Titling Planet has long done (I read that book eighteen years ago today) they brought me strength and solace. It was a long, hard winter and I remember reading The Young Unicorns with head lice, and the books made me feel so much better. I read all the Austins, and then began the Polly O’Keefe books, and read A Severed Wasp because Suzy Austin features—and read A Small Rain too, because it’s about the protagonist of A Severed Wasp. And then finally the last book I had to read was An Acceptable Time, which is about Polly O’Keefe, but which is not technically a “Polly O’Keefe” book, because it’s set in L’Engle’s “kairos” time and is the fifth book in the Wrinkle in Time series. Which I was less compelled by, because it was the realism of the Austin series that drew me more than the sci-fi fantasy elements of Wrinkle. (I am really boring. I am the type of reader who only likes the parts of the Harry Potter books where he’s with the Dursleys.)

But because I am nothing if not a completist (and because I was feeling out of sorts on the weekend, and reading Madeleine L’Engle is a wonderful way to deal with that), I finally tackled An Acceptable Time. Which takes place the year after A House Like a Lotus, and Polly has moved to live with her grandparents at the property we all know from Wrinkle. And guess who she finds outside in the bushes, but actual Zachary Grey, the most unappealing character in all of literature, who never seems to have anything better to do than traverse the globe in pursuit of women who are too young/good for him and them place them in perilous situations.

At first, I thought maybe this time would be different. After all, this book was written 25 years after Zachary Grey first turned up—maybe he’d finally learned to know better. He seems less rude and more interesting at the beginning of the book for sure, and is interested in the ancient civilization whose artifacts are appearing on Polly’s grandparents’ property. Maybe Zachary’s trajectory would be different this time? But this was not to be.

There is a whole storyline when Polly and Zachary become trapped in a tesseract and are taken 3000 years into the past, and everyone wore animal skin tunics and to be honest I just didn’t care in the slightest and skimmed this part. Although I loved this idea that Polly grandparents had built their pool on top of an underground spring that was an ancient holy place, where a lake had been before, and the waters are a portal (and Polly is good at swimming, having been raised on islands, because her father is a marine biologist). Anyway, Zachary wants to go into the past because he has this idea that it will heal his ailing heart, and then it turns out that Polly’s going to be made a blood sacrifice (naturally) and this doesn’t bother Zach in the slightest. He eventually has Polly kidnapped, put in danger, and when she gives him a hard time about this, he storms off: “Polly, I wanted to talk to you, but I can see there’s not point when you’re being unreasonable.” I was all for L’Engle being willing to kill Zachary off, but tragically this does not happen….

Anyway, now that I’ve finished reading these books, I really want to read L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals, and possibly reread her Camilla, which I loved when I was younger, and then her later book about the same character, published in 1990s, which is not meant to be good, but I think having come to a wider understanding of L’Engle’s work, I might just find it interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for Pickle Me This: The Digest

Best of the blog delivered to your inbox each month!

A Boutique Online Bookstore Delivering Excellent Fiction Right to Your Door:

Get My New Free Download: 5 MORE Prompts to Bring Back Your Blogging Spark!

Photo Kerry Clare with her Laptop

Coming Fall 2019:

My Books

The Doors
Twitter Pinterest Pinterest Good Reads RSS Post