Madeleine L’Engle, American writer, Died at 88

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Madeleine L’Engle died on September 6, 2007, at the age of 88, she was an American writer.

Born in New York on November 29, 1918, and named after her great-grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle, otherwise known as Mado.

Her maternal grandfather was Florida banker Bion Barnett, co-founder of Barnett Bank in Jacksonville, Florida.

Her mother, a pianist, was also named Madeleine.

L’Engle wrote her first story at age five and began keeping a journal at age eight.

These early literary attempts did not translate into academic success at the New York City private school where she was enrolled.

A shy, clumsy child, she was branded as stupid by some of her teachers. Unable to please them, she retreated into her own world of books and writing.

Her parents often disagreed about how to raise her, and as a result she attended a number of boarding schools and had many governesses.

The L’Engles travelled frequently, at one point, the family moved to a château near Chamonix in the French Alps, in what Madeleine described as the hope that the cleaner air would be easier on her father’s lungs.

Madeleine was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland.

She went to Smith College and studied English with some wonderful teachers as she read the classics and continued her own creative writing.

She graduated with honours and moved into a Greenwich Village apartment in New York. She worked in the theatre, where Equity union pay and a flexible schedule afforded her the time to write! She published her first two novels during these years—A Small Rain and Ilsa—before meeting Hugh Franklin, her future husband, when she was an understudy in Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard.

They married during The Joyous Season.

She had a baby girl and kept on writing, eventually moving to Connecticut to raise the family away from the city in a small dairy farm village with more cows than people. They bought a dead general store, and brought it to life for 9 years.

They moved back to the city with three children, and Hugh revitalized his professional acting career.

L’Engle’s children were the first audience for her best known work, A Wrinkle in Time (1962).

She read them the story while she worked on it. After dozens of rejections, L’Engle was finally able to find a publisher for this innovative tale.

A Wrinkle in Time follows the adventures of Meg Murry as she travels through time and space to find her missing scientist father.

She accompanied on this journey by her brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin O’Keefe, which is made possible by the assistance of three unusual beings known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. For the book, L’Engle drew inspiration from such varied sources as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and works of William Shakespeare.

L’Engle remained devoted to her writing throughout her life.

In Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth (2002), she reflected on the influence and power of the narrative.

She also pursued another creative form with Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle (2005).

By this time her health was in decline. She won the National Humanities Medal in 2004, but she was unable to make the award ceremony.

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