An Acceptable Time
Madeleine L'Engle

Murray Family #5
Category: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Tags:
Morality: B-
Writing: C+

Polly is studying with her grandparents in New England one autumn when a time gate suddenly opens, allowing people from 3,000 years ago to travel to the present day — and vice versa. Along with two companions from the present day, Polly finds herself among the citizens of an ancient society, where Native Americans live with two immigrants from Britain, one of whom is a druid. Unfortunately, rain has been scarce for these ancient people, and some of them want to sacrifice Polly to the earth goddess as a plea for help. And Polly’s erstwhile friend Zachary is willing to help them in exchange for their possible healing of his terminal heart condition.

The writing in this book is tolerable, although not notably good. There are no problems in the phrase-to-phrase writing, and the characters are moderately well-developed. I found the author’s lack of attention to the language barrier irritating — she acknowledged it but allowed Polly to understand all the natives just about instantly, except at times where it was inconvenient for plotting’s sake, when comprehension became suddenly impossible. Polly spends a few hours studying the Celtic language Ogam and is able to understand the speech not only of the Celtic-influenced tribe, but also of another tribe with no Celtic influence. It also annoyed me that when the author intended to indicate simple language use (in order to facilitate communication), the natives inevitably used bad grammar. Why would they do this, in their own language no less? Sorry . . . the linguist in me strikes again.

L’Engle mostly avoids dealing with the issues arising from the juxtaposition of druidic magical practices and Christianity, which her Christian character (an Anglican [I think] priest) expressing his belief in orthodox Christianity while having no problem with the use of druidic power. Characters make comments about there being a difference between good and bad power, but apparently we never really see bad power in action, so there’s no definition of either. I would much prefer either removing Christianity from the picture or dealing more directly with the disagreements between it and druidism, rather than basically ignoring the problem as L’Engle does.

There are themes of self-sacrifice in the book — although they’re rather smothered by the end — as well as forgiveness and some sort of providence, which is expressed as ‘lines’ drawn between characters, apparently linking their destinies. Indeed, the book’s title seems to reference this idea of providence. However, I found most of the potentially interesting philosophical or religious content of the book rather muddled and unconvincing.

Posted by Sasha | August 14, 2007

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