If you ever glance over at Mama Squirrel's Reading List in the sidebar there, you might notice that since the beginning of this year I've read the entire C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy, the Wrinkle in Time books up through A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and two Lloyd Alexander books.
The Space Trilogy I thought was amazing. Some of the technical devices that Lewis used to tell the story were genius...for example, the scene in Out of the Silent Planet where Ransom is interpreting a lot of important-sounding but really insane propaganda into the language of Malacandra. It's not only funny, but it's a clever way to both interpret what's being said for us (could you follow all that yourself without help?), and also to show how weak the argument is when it's stripped naked, so to speak. That Hideous Strength (the third book) would be an awesome book to give to an older teenager who had studied something about fascism. (And what is it with C.S. Lewis and bear characters?)
Lloyd Alexander, I'm still acquiring a taste for--I like his characters, though, and I can see why girls would like Princess Eilonwy. The short stories are very thoughtful...they're a bit like Tolkien's stories like "Smith of Wootton Major."
As for Madeleine L'Engle's science-fantasy books, I've always been careful about them since reading A Landscape with Dragons. But I recently reread her memoir Two-Part Invention, and when I followed that up with some online searches, I came across the comment that if you want to know what she honestly thought, and what her family's life was really like, you should read her science fiction--not her memoirs or other supposed-to-be-true books. (Isn't that an intriguing thought that you could apply to other writers and artists as well? Read their stories, look at their paintings, listen to the music--the truth comes out in unexpected ways.) Although I had read A Wrinkle in Time years ago, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea; I didn't particularly like the three old ladies. I never did read it to any of the Squirrelings. But I really do like the two books that follow it, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet...I think L'Engle was probably at her creative peak through the years she wrote those.
So when I saw a copy of Many Waters (written in the 1980's) at the thrift store, I picked it up, thinking I would at least finish reading those four books that are often grouped together. By the end of the first few chapters, though, I was baffled. The style didn't sound like L'Engle's earlier books; the whoosh-you-off-somewhere plot had no point to it; there were un-family-friendly references; and, mainly, it just sounded like some hammered-out book that anybody could have written. When I checked out the reviews on Amazon, I saw that other readers said the same thing: "loved the first three, don't bother with this one."
Well, I'm glad to find out it's not just me. But disappointed too.
I think I'm done my fantasizing binge for now. (But I might pick up the next Alexander books next time we're at the library, if I remember.)
Linked from It's Your Turn at Educating Mother, March 2011.