Becoming Madeline is a biography of the author Madeleine L’engle, written for middle-grade readers by her granddaughters Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy.
Like most people, I first encountered L’engle through A Wrinkle in Time. I was in the 7th or 8th grade and it was unlike anything I had read before. The small book was weird, comforting, wise, and life-affirming in a way that was at the same time both familiar and radical.
Over the next few years I devoured most of her work. Discovering L’engle during my middle and high school years had a tremendous impact on my outlook on life.
Alike and equal are not the same thing!
Your greatest faults can also be your greatest gifts!
In the end, all will be well!
When I took a trip to New York in 2007, I visited the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, where L’engle worked as writer in residence for several years.
My grandmother, a librarian, was also a fan of L’engle’s writing. When I would buy and read a new book I’d lend it to her and we would discuss it. After she passed away, I took her copy of Bright Evening Star and found an inscription on the first page, a testament to the impact L’engle’s words had on her.
I approached Becoming Madeleine with excitement and yet was sure that I would find nothing new here. Madeleine L’engle wrote a number of autobiographical works, so I wasn’t sure what else could be said about her life that I hadn’t already read. However, by telling L’engle’s story in chronological order, rather than through the random snippets as they are presented in her own work, allowed me to see her story in a different light. Anyone familiar with L’engle’s work knows how important time, and the order one experiences it in, can be!
Of particular fascination to me was the inclusion of Madeleine’s diary entries. Not only was it intriguing to get a look at her private writing, but it also allowed the reader see how the themes that permeated her work (time, love, God, faith, science, and the horrors of war) were at the forefront of her thinking, even at a young age, and were always evolving.
The biography stops just after the publication of a Wrinkle in Time. This was disappointing, as I would have liked to have seen how Madeleine moved through her later years. However, the book is written for middle-grade readers; therefore, the story focuses heavily on her younger years when she was the same age as the intended audience.
Voiklis and Roy have written a loving and satisfying account of a writer that has impacted many people and continues to impact more each day. If you are a long-time L’engle reader or just discovering her work, this is a book you won’t want to miss.
–Sunday, February 11th, 2018