08 March 2010


Madeleine L'Engle Novel Smackdown, Round 4
(See Round 1, Round 2, Round 3A, and Round 3B . . . which, an expert later told me, should have had names rather than numbers)

L'Engle Planet4 vs. L'Engle AcceptableTime2
[New covers are] another indication that stories have a life of their own, and that they say different things to different people at different times. And [they are] an affirmation that story is true and takes us beyond the facts into something more real.

Madeleine L'Engle
Introduction to the 1997 editions of her Time Quintet
(not pictured above!)

After over a month of duking it out as only sister novels can, our two grand finalists finally come face to face.

Let's start by comparing their past performances, and seeing which novel did a more impressive job in each round . . .

Round 1

A Swiftly Tilting Planet beat The Arm of the Starfish, a so-so SF Thriller with a really obvious bad guy and a premise that didn't fascinate even L'Engle herself enough to write another book about it.

An Acceptable Time beat Meet the Austins, a heartwarming family novel (almost in the tradition of Eleanor Estes' Moffats books, except that this one is told in first person) about how the death of a beloved uncle and the temporary care of his spoiled daughter can disrupt even the most functional family.

Winner: An Acceptable Time, because Meet the Austins was much a tougher opponent than it looks.

Round 2

A Swiftly Tilting Planet beat A House Like a Lotus, which is still the most emotionally demanding coming-of-age stories I've ever read--a novel about an impressionable girl who made an idol out of a very flawed woman who loved her and hurt her.

An Acceptable Time beat Camilla, a more forgettable coming-of-age story about a girl who discovers, in a short span of time, that her parents are terribly fallible, that her best friend is no longer someone she can tell everything to, and that first love may not last forever: nothing new here.

Winner: A Swiftly Tilting Planet, because it went over ten rounds with A House Like a Lotus before I called a technical knockout. (Isn't the way I mix sport metaphors just awful???)

Round 3

A Swiftly Tilting Planet beat A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle's most successful and popular novel of all time . . . though that feat was not actually as impressive as it may sound.

An Acceptable Time beat The Young Unicorns, an SF Thriller cluttered with too many characters, too few of those bohemian New Yorkers.

Winner: It's so close that I'm calling a draw.


Now, I don't need The Expert to remind me that no respectable tournament bracket is allowed to end in a draw.

So, in a move I may live to regret, I am making this one more interactive and putting some power in the hands of my beloved readers!

Tell me in the combox which novel you think should win . . . and next Monday, I'll add up your votes, name the winner, and write the last post of our smackdown. Okay? =)

Image Sources: a) A Swiftly Tilting Planet, b) An Acceptable Time


r said...

A Swiftly Tilting Planet is the obvious winner. Has been since the beginning.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for your vote, R!

What I find most interesting is that both Planet and Time have the same setting, the same "gimmick" of traveling to different Whens while staying in the same When, and even the same fictional tribe called the People of the Wind.

I really wish Charles Wallace could have made a small appearance in Time!

Jocelyne said...

A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

I liked An Acceptable Time but frankly the inclusion of Zachary as a character in that one kind of stuck in my craw. I never liked him in any of the other books, either. One of L'Engle's least believable characters as far as I'm concerned.

Enbrethiliel said...


Two votes for A Swiftly Tilting Planet!

I personally find this very interesting!

Thanks for voting, Jocelyn. =)

Salome Ellen said...

Well, you're supposed to be uncomfortable with Zachary...

But A Swiftly Tilting Planet is just the BEST; three or more standard deviations above the mean of "teen" novels, where L'Engle's average is about two. (For non-math types, that means "better than 95% of the competition.")

Full disclosure -- I read ASTP in one sitting when I discovered it, loved the anagrams, and have a daughter named Branwen. Maybe a tinge of bias???!

Enbrethiliel said...


Welcome to Shredded Cheddar, Salome Ellen! =)

I actually didn't notice the anagrams until I reread A Swiftly Tilting Planet for this tournament. *embarrassed blush* I wonder what I shall be surprised to see next time, if I ever reread this novel again.

Thanks for your vote!

pj francis said...

I just found your site today, with joy, as I am a huge L'Engle fan, and think the bracketing a great idea -- although I am not sure of your original rankings or decisions. It would have been nice if you had chosen the YA book, "The Joys of Love," that was published posthumously. Perhaps you can comment on that soon.

pj francis said...

PS. I am not just new to your site, I am not that comfortable with commenting. What I meant to say was, I wish you had included "The Joys of Love" in your original brackets. Sorry.

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, PJ Francis! =)

I have not yet read The Joys of Love and don't think it's available where I live yet. (In the combox of an earlier Round, someone commented that L'Engle's books are astonishingly hard to find, given her status as an award-winning and highly popular writer. I had to agree!)

Please feel free to comment on any of the earlier rankings or decisions. I really enjoy feedback! I also hope you will cast your own vote for this last round. Which do you think should win: A Swiftly Tilting Planet or An Acceptable Time?

pj francis said...

My vote is for "A Swiftly Tilting Planet," despite the previously mentioned flaws, with which I agree. It is far superior to "An Acceptable Time" which has nice components and seems like it should be great, but falls short. I know we are not supposed to like Zachary, but using him here is so contrived and out of place it hits a sour note.
I live in a rural area also, but the book store in my nearby small town seems able to order anything. And I know "Joys of Love," is available from the usual sources on-line. I hope you find it, it is a pleasant surprise.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for your vote, PJ.

I have to confess, though, that given all the other books I want to read first, it will be a while before I get around to Joys of Love.

Cozy Book Nook said...

My vote is for Planet. I really don't remember much about An Acceptable Time. I must have only read it once but I've read Planet numerous times.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Lesa!