Sunday, May 11, 2014

Book Review: Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle (1994)

In her final Austin book, Madeleine L'Engle sends Vicky Austin on a trip to Antarctica funded by Adam Eddington's Aunt Serena. Vicky unwittingly becomes embroiled in a volatile international conflict involving nuclear weapons, kidnapping, and murder.

Now that I have read all of the Murry, O'Keefe, and Austin books, some of the stories very clearly stand out as the best, while others are obviously the worst. Troubling a Star falls somewhere near the bottom of the heap. L'Engle creates this strange sense of false suspense. I could tell I was supposed to be eagerly anticipating a big bombshell ending, but I never actually felt that sense of urgency. Truth be told, from the time Vicky left home, I was bored and kept checking to see just how many pages I had left to read.

Though I adore Vicky in the early Austin books, in this story she was less of a character and more of a vehicle for allowing the reader to witness events in Antarctica. I constantly kept forgetting that she was Vicky and not Polly, as the two characters basically become interchangeable by the end of the series. I really wish L'Engle had stuck to the more realistic family stories such as The Moon By Night. Even The Young Unicorns, which involves some implausible dangers, is more interesting than this cross between Dragons in the Waters and A House Like a Lotus.

All in all, I am glad to have undertaken this reading exercise, and equally glad to be through with it. I was surprised by how inconsistent L'Engle's writing is over the course of each series, and I couldn't help but wonder whether some of these books would ever find an audience if not for their connection to the beloved A Wrinkle in Time. I appreciate L'Engle's willingness to experiment and try different genres. I just never liked the unshakable feeling that she was often writing fanfiction based on her own earlier works.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this post. Very interesting how you ranked one author's writing. I had only read #4 and #6, Now I am going to go back and pick up a few more toward the top of your list.