Madeleine L’Engle is one of my absolute favorite young adult authors. Her Austin family series is dear to my heart, and those are the only books of hers that I have purchased, although I don’t have all of them [yet].
I have already shared reviews of two of her books here – the first of the Austin books, Meet The Austins, and The Arm of the Starfish. When discussing those books, I mentioned my favorite Austin novel, A Ring of Endless Light. Since I spoke so highly of it then, I thought it would make sense to post my review of it.
I think this might be the deepest of all the Austin novels. It’s certainly my favorite.
The author’s talent for lyricism and word usage shines brightly in this book, as does her understanding of love and loss, life and death. It’s a story about growing up and discovering who you are, but also learning about other people and seeing them as individuals.
There’s little that can be said negatively about this book. If it is seen by some as too harsh of a voyage into reality, I would counter that the Austin family is seen by all their peers to be sheltered, and if it’s something they can handle, most anyone should be able to.
Madeleine L’Engle’s books, and this one in particular, are so moral and meaningful that if anything they should be read more frequently (and by more people), not less.
This book has a lot to teach, without being preachy (which I don’t tolerate in a novel). The reader learns as the main character learns, feels joy and sadness along with her.
There are a lot of coming-of-age works out there, granted, but you could do a lot worse than this one.
It has just enough of a touch of the whimsical to keep it from bearing down too heavily.
As it happens, I have another Austin book review handy. The Young Unicorns is the fourth in the series, and comes immediately before A Ring of Endless Light, although it works well as a stand-alone. (Any of them do, really.)
This book doesn’t seem to fit well with the other Austin family novels. I enjoy it, but only if I can let go of my expectations about an Austin book.
I missed having Vicky’s perspective on everything in this book; I wonder why Ms. L’Engle chose to tell the story more-or-less through Josiah Davidson’s eyes.
Other characters had their turn at being the protagonist for a while, which I thought was a nice touch. I really like Vicky Austin, though; she’s one of my favorite characters that the author has written about.
Also, there was a touch of the unrealistic in this book. The first two Austin novels seemed pretty firmly grounded in reality, and A Ring of Endless Light does get a bit away from that, but it doesn’t seem as far-fetched as The Young Unicorns.
The only other thing that bothers me at all about this is that all the things that happen in this book seem rather isolated from the rest of the series. The year in New York is only vaguely spoken about in the next book, and characters – such as Zachary Gray and Andy, Uncle Douglas and Aunt Elena, Maggy – from the previous two novels are mentioned all too briefly for my taste, or not at all.
The characters talk about being islands in this book; the book itself seems an island within the series.
Oh well. This one may not be my favorite, but I love the appearances of Canon Tallis and Mr. Theo, and I really enjoyed the introduction of Emily Gregory. Of course, as always, I have a great appreciation for Ms. L’Engle’s writing style.
There are only two other novels in the series that I’ve read, The Moon by Night and Troubling a Star (the latter of which I own). I don’t have reviews of them, but perhaps someday I’ll write them and post them here. I haven’t even managed to locate copies of the other books in the series, which has been a source of continual frustration for me.
I would eventually like to own all of them, and perhaps Ms. L’Engle’s Time Quartet as well. As is clear by the state of my paperbacks, I re-read these books frequently. I think they are very worthy additions to any bibliophile’s shelves.