Monday, March 4, 2013

In triplicate

After having read several reviews recommending the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson, I had high expectations about revisiting this story.  Hope Larson's other graphic novels Mercury and Chiggers  had been most enjoyable so there was lots to look forward to.

The book arrives, I take it home and merrily begin zipping through it.  About a third of the way in, I start to feel a little dissatisfied.  Not really disappointed but I kept feeling like something was missing. 

I had read the novel sometime in the 80s (a long time ago -- I know!) and remember loving the book.  I loved the characters and found the plot fascinating.  I remember being gripped.  But because my initial consumption of the book was a long time ago and my memory isn't what it use to be I was a little vague on some of the details of story.  I had envisioned tucking it the graphic novel to revisit old friends in far-out worlds and I wondered  why I was not enthralled with the graphic novel.  Was it my faulty memory?

I  realized a little further on that the graphic novel gives us primarily dialogue and without  L'Engle's beautifully written descriptive passages I felt like I was reading a Coles Notes version of the book.  The plot was pretty much the way I remember it.  All the characters were accounted for. The visual aspect of the book was working for me but my imagination wasn't able to recreate the world that L'Engle had created with her words.  

Going back into the office I mentioned this to work-mates Janet H. (occasional guest blogger) and Lynn K.  I discovered that Janet had read it like me sometime ago and that Lynn had never picked up the book.  I thought it would be interesting, if the they were keen to read the graphic novel, if we all wrote up our responses as a blog posting.  I was hopeful that Janet or Lynn would find it really good like many other reviewers and show me why it was supposedly such a good adaptation of the novel.

Being the good eggs that they are, they both agreed to this and their responses followed.

I would recommend this book.  It is highly accessible in terms of characters and plot and struggling readers will keep up.  I just keep thinking that they'll be missing something if they never read the original story.

By Janet.
Notes on “A wrinkle in time” – the graphic, the original, the audio. Because when Tammy gives me an assignment, I want to do it PROPERLY!!

First of all – I read “A wrinkle in time” many years ago – so far back that although I remembered the story, I didn't remember the details (I'm old – forgive me). In fact, the edition in the Doucette is from 1964, so we know I am talking MANY years ago. So I approached the graphic novel with some enthusiasm. I could knock it off quickly and refresh my memory. All good, right?

Well, no, not really. I found myself getting restless by about page 94. I couldn't remember why I had thought this book was special – and the graphic novel wasn't capturing it. But sometimes that happens – a much loved story read when you are young can often be less successful the second time around.

I went back to the original novel, hoping to capture some of what I loved about the original story. And I did. L’Engle’s use of language, her ability to really TELL a story – the descriptions of Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin wrinkling through time brought back my original enthusiasm for the book. And although I caught some things the second time around that I didn't remember from my first reading (the Christian themes threw me, as did the rather quick ending), I would still whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Oh – and I listened to it as well. I thought it would save me time as I could move back and forth between the written (read before bed) and the listening (in my car on the way to work, meetings etc.) The reader did an admirable job of capturing what I thought the voices should be and the story held firm in my memory.

My problem with the graphic novel? For me, it was mainly the graphics.  The production value of the book at first glance seems high. The book is a hard cover and the cover shows a dark, rich blue-black sky, with a few twinkling stars and the three main characters in colour. But the graphics inside are in blue and black only – and I found it a challenge sometimes to determine just what is happening, in the rush through time and darkness/light. The art could have captured, in part, what is not there in words. Full colour would have allowed the reader to see the vastness of the dark from atop Mrs.Whatsit’s back or see the exact moment when Charles Wallace goes “under” the influence of IT. Instead, the vacancy of his eyes is only partially captured (only so much can be done with black, blue and white, I guess). The magic of the original story was in the strength of the language and the descriptions. When that was removed, the story was, for me, much less colourful and left me not really satisfied that I had the full story.

By Lynn.
A Wrinkle in Time: the graphic novel
I had never read A Wrinkle in Time, so agreed to read both the graphic novel and original versions and write about my reactions. First, I read the graphic adaptation.  It was interesting to read, though a bit slow to start. I found the initial character and story set-up to be long, and somewhat tedious and confusing done in pictures. The black and blue illustrations were really annoying at first, but once I got into the story, they were not as noticeable and the narrative sped along. The story itself was straightforward, though it seemed to end in a bit of a rush.
Then I read the original prose version. It was much quicker to set the scene and establish characters, which was done in only a page or two compared to several in the graphic version.  There was also more scope for description of surroundings and emotions. The graphic adaptation was very faithful to the original, so there were no surprises in the story. The only time I remembered the pictures were for the unusual creatures such as Aunt Beast. Otherwise I was content to let my imagination work and not be bound by someone else’s vision.  I preferred the original prose version for this reason, but would certainly recommend the graphic novel for those who like the format and reluctant readers who would find the combination of pictures and words easier to handle.  


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