Madeleine L'Engle

(1918-2007), American

Privileged to come from a very artistic home, L’Engle found interest in writing at an early age, and by age 5 she had already written a book to her name. In the following few years, she would tour Europe with her family, get a college degree and move to New York City to kick-start her writing career. In this article, readers can find the basic biographical facts about Madeleine L’Engle, author of ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’

Life Facts

  • Madeleine L’Engle was born in New York City on November 29 1918 to Charles Wadsworth Camp and Madeleine Hall Barnett.
  • Her father Charles was a writer and journalist while her mother Barnett was a pianist.
  • L’Engle’s name came from her great-grandmother Madeleine Margaret L’Engle.
  • Her mother became pregnant with her after twelve years of being married to L’Engle’s father Charles – and she became the only child they ever had.
  • Her father was a war correspondent for a reputable magazine during World War I and traveled a lot when she was a baby.
  • She was married to Hugh Franklin, an actor, whom she had met on the production set of ‘The Cherry Orchard.’

Interesting Facts

  • Before publishing her acclaimed novel ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ L’Engle first read the book to her children while she tried to test the book’s narrative and impact.
  • Shortly after its release, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ was banned from libraries and public bookshelves because it was accused of being anti-Christianity, and spread certain ideas pertaining to the occult.
  • L’Engle worked as a librarian for over thirty years with New York City’s St. John the Divine.
  • She almost quit writing in the early 50s when she was struggling between raising kids and staying committed to her career.
  • She knew how to play the piano and played one whenever she encountered writer’s block.
  • L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ stayed for two years before finally getting published because the book was considered contradictory to what children’s books should be.

Famous Books by Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle was quite prolific in her writing career which spanned several decades. In those years, she published more than a dozen books and still managed to write several poems, book series, short stories, plays, novellas, and picture books. Some of the most famous books of L’Engle will be highlighted below.

A Wrinkle in Time is the best-known work of Madeleine L’Engle and has been a recipient of multiple awards – including the prestigious Newbery Medal for young adult science fiction. The book is the first of L’Engle’s Time Quintet series and follows the story of 13-year-old Meg Murry who, with help from some good company – which included her 5-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, journeys through space and time to save her father from alien incarceration.

Meet the Austins is the first of the Austin Family series and came two years before ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ – really propelled L’Engle’s success in creating book series. ‘Meet the Austins’ tells the story of the happy and loving family of Vicky Austin and her siblings, who are later joined by 10-year-old Maggy who has just lost her father to a plane crash. The book unravels an interesting series that runs in episodes.

A Wind in the Door is a book published in 1973 and comes as the second book in the Time Quintet series after ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ In this book, Meg has turned 14 and is now in high school and enjoys her experiences there and feels better about herself much unlike the case in ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ But even though things are going well on those fronts, a new, interstellar enemy has emerged and his name is Echthroi. Meg must find a way to defeat him and save her brother Charles Wallace.

The Small Rain is the first of the Vigneras series and L’Engle’s maiden book published in 1945. The book, which the author started while enrolled in college and finished after she graduated and was working in New York City, follows a half biography of Katherine Forrester – from her difficult childhood and her tough experiences on her way to becoming a renowned pianist just like her mother, Julie. The book takes some interesting twists of betrayal, love, revenge, and reunions all of which make it such a good read.

Madeleine L’Engle Poetry

Aside from authoring dozens of books in the nature of series, novels, short stories, and biographies, L’Engle had also been involved heavily in the poetry industry – and she authored and co-authored several poems and anthologies including ‘Wintersong’ with Luci Shaw and ‘Lines Scribbled on an Envelope’ among others (all these and more will be discussed in the poetry section).

Early Life and Education

Madeleine L’Engle Camp was born in New York City on November 29 1918 to a writer and journalist father Charles Wadsworth, and her mother, a pianist, Barnett Camp. The couple had a delay in conceiving and only gave birth to L’Engle after almost twelve years of their marriage.
L’Engle grew up being the only child, loved, included and provided for by her parents – who were also heavily invested in their respective careers. The times that the couple didn’t spend time with their daughter, they would make sure she had a lot of children’s books at her disposal. After reading several stories from her favourite authors, she soon began writing something of her own and by the time she was 5 years old, she had written a story.
L’Engle was enrolled in elementary school in New York City but later moved to Europe with her parents where she attended a Swiss disciplinary school the family soon returned to the United States following a struggling period for diaspora Americans resulting from Adolf Hitler’s influence in the late 30s and early to middle 40s.
Upon returning to Florida, United States, she was sent to an all-girls boarding school in South Carolina but she would frequently visit Florida during holidays and short breaks to spend quality time with family who were based there at the time. The years from 1933 to 1936 were devastating for L’Engle as she lost her grandmother, and then her father.
Although both were extremely unbearable, the latter hit her so hard that she felt like giving up everything but her mother’s presence gave her the courage to continue. She later got admission to study English literature at Smith College Massachusetts and graduated within the top 20 percent of best students.

Literary Career

After leaving Smith College with an English degree and a wealth of industry experience she had gotten from her coursework and writing-related extracurricular works, the author moved to New York City and set her literary career rolling – first starting off at theatres where she majorly wrote scripts and screenplays.

L’Engle flourished in this industry but at the same time, she was writing her books during her free time. In 1945, she finally published her first book titled, ‘The Small Rain’ to warm acclaim and in the following year released her second book ‘Ilsa.

In 1949, she delved properly into young adult genre books with her publishing of ‘And Both Were Young’ and later after a few publishings released ‘Meet the Austins’ in 1960 which became a series that really propelled her career to more acclaim but her best had not come yet.

That same year, L’Engle started and finished what would become her greatest ever work ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ but wasn’t going to publish it until two years later because no publisher would agree to publish the highly controversial book.

She eventually got published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (FSG) or Ariel Books as they are currently known today, and the book began flying high in success but not without criticism and even banned at one point. But there was no stopping the book’s success, as it went on and became a recipient of several top book awards -including the Newbery Medal prize.

Literature by Madeleine L’Engle

Explore literature by Madeleine L’Engle below, created by the team at Book Analysis.