A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journal Series #1)

( 9 )


This journal shares fruitful reflections on life and career prompted by the author's visit to her personal place of retreat near her country home.

"My favorite among all Madeleine L'Engle books."--Jean Kerr

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This journal shares fruitful reflections on life and career prompted by the author's visit to her personal place of retreat near her country home.

"My favorite among all Madeleine L'Engle books."--Jean Kerr

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Fans will enjoy meeting the people, the cultural passions, the real-life situations that are transformed into loving husbands, large happy families, artistic adolescents, prescient children, and illuminating vignettes in L'Engle's books." -The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062545039
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1984
  • Series: Crosswicks Journal Series, #1
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 249,109
  • Product dimensions: 7.96 (w) x 5.24 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeline L'Engle, the popular author of many books for children and adults, has interspersed her writing and teaching career with raising three children, maintaining an apartment in New York and a farmhouse of charming confusion which is called "Crosswicks."


Madeleine L'Engle Camp was born in New York City and educated in boarding schools in Switzerland and across the United States. A shy, withdrawn child with few friends, she retreated into writing at an early age. She attended Smith College, graduating summa cum laude in 1941. After college, she worked in the New York theatre, where she met her future husband, Hugh Franklin. (Later she would say that they "met in The Cherry Orchard and married during The Joyous Season.") Her first book, The Small Rain (1945), was completed while she was still working as an actress.

After the birth of their first child, Madeleine and her husband moved to rural Connecticut to run a small general store; but in 1959, they returned to New York City with their three children so Hugh Franklin could resume his acting career (For many years, he played Dr. Charles Tyler on the popular television soap opera All My Children.) Although Madeleine wrote steadily during this period, few of her books were published. Then, in 1960, she released her first children's story, Meet the Austins. An affectionate portrait of a close-knit family, the book was named an ALA Notable Children's Book of the year and spawned several bestselling sequels.

Completed in 1960, L'Engle's science fiction YA classic A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by more than two dozen publishers before Farrar, Straus and Giroux finally released it in 1962. Elegant, imaginative, and filled with complex moral themes, the acclaimed Newbery Medal winner tells the story of Meg Murry, a young girl who travels through time with her psychically gifted younger brother to rescue their scientist father from a planet controlled by an evil entity known as the Dark Thing. Throughout her career, L'Engle would return to the Murry family three more times, in A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), and Many Waters (1986). The Time Quartet, as these four books have come to be called, weaves together elements of theology and quantum physics often assumed to be far too esoteric for children to understand. Yet, it became a true classic of juvenalia. L'Engle explained once, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

In addition to her YA novels, the prolific writer also penned adult fiction, poems, plays, memoirs, and religious meditations. She served as the longtime librarian and writer-in-residence for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Madeleine L'Engle passed away at a nursing home in Connecticut in 2007.

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    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Death:
      September 6, 2007
    2. Place of Death:
      Litchfield, CT
    1. Education:
      Smith College, 1941

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

We are four generations under one roof this summer, from infant Charlotte to almost-ninety Great-grandmother. This is a situation which is getting rarer and rarer in this day and age when families are divided by large distances and small dwellings. Josephine and Alan and the babies come from England; Great-grandmother from the Deep South; Hugh and I and our younger children, from New York; and our assorted "adopted" children from as far afield as Mexico and as close as across the road; all to be together in Crosswicks, our big, old-fashioned New England farmhouse. It's an ancient house by American standards — well over two hundred years old. It still seems old to me, although Josephine and Alan, in Lincoln, live close by the oldest inhabited house in Europe, built in the eleven-hundreds.

When our children were little and we lived in Crosswicks year round, they liked to count things. They started to count the books, but stopped after they got to three thousand. They also counted beds, and figured that as long as all the double beds held two people, we could sleep twenty-one; that, of course, included the attic. We are using the attic this summer, though we haven't yet slept twenty-one. A lot of the time it is twelve, and even more to feed. Cooking is the only part of housekeeping I manage with any grace; it's something like writing a book: you look in the refrigerator and see what's there, choose all the ingredients you need, and a few your husband thinks you don't need, and put them all together to concoct a dish. Vacuum cleaners are simply something more for me to trip over; and a kitchen floor, no matterhow grubby, looks better before I wax it. The sight of a meal's worth of dirty dishes, pots, and pans makes me want to run in the other direction. Every so often I need out; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody — away from all these people I love most in the world — in order to regain a sense of proportion.

I like hanging sheets on lines strung under the apple trees — the birds like it, too. I enjoy going out to the incinerator after dark and watching the flames; my bad feelings burn away with the trash. But the house is still visible, and I can hear the sounds from within; often I need to get away completely, if only for a few minutes. My special place is a small brook in a green glade, a circle of quiet from which there is no visible sign of human beings. There's a natural stone bridge over the brook, and I sit there, dangling my legs and looking through the foliage at the sky reflected in the water, and things slowly come back into perspective. If the insects are biting me — and they usually are; no place is quite perfect — I use the pliable branch of a shadblow tree as a fan. The brook wanders through a tunnel of foliage, and the birds sing more sweetly there than anywhere else; or perhaps it is just that when I am at the brook I have time to be aware of them, and I move slowly into a kind of peace that is marvelous, "annihilating all that's made to a green thought in a green shade." If I sit for a while, then my impatience, crossness, frustration, are indeed annihilated, and my sense of humor returns.

It's a ten-minute walk to the brook. I cross the lawn and go through the willow tree which splashes its fountain of green onto the grass so that it's almost impossible to mow around it. If it's raining and I really need the brook badly, I go in my grandfather's old leather hunting coat and a strange yellow knitted hat from Ireland (one of my children, seeing me set Off, asked, "Who do you think you are, Mother? Mrs Whatsit?"); it's amazing what passing the half-century mark does to free one to be eccentric. When my hair gets wet I look like a drowned ostrich, and I much prefer resembling an amiable, myopic giraffe as I wade through the wet clover of the large pasture. It's already been bayed twice this summer: does the neighboring farmer, who uses our pastures in addition to his own, hay clover? I was born in the middle of the asphalt island of Manhattan, and even nearly a decade of living in Crosswicks all year round has not made me conversant with bucolic terms. When Hugh and I bought the house the spring after we were married (we walked into a run-down place that hadn't been loved for years, and it opened its arms to us) and I saw cows in the pasture, they didn't look like cows to me. My idea of cows was from illustrations in children's books.

After the pasture is traversed, I walk through a smaller pasture which has been let go to seed because of all the rocks, and is now filled with thistles. Then there is a stone wall to be climbed; the only poison ivy around here grows on and by the stones of this wall, and I'm trying to kill it by smothering it with a wet Sunday Timeses? (We also use it for the cats.) I think the poison ivy is less flourishing than it was; at any rate The New York Times is not going to unbalance the ecology. I love the ology words; ology: the word about. Eco, man's dwelling place. The word about where man lives.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 18, 2013

    This book is one of my treasures. She lets us get to know Grand

    This book is one of my treasures. She lets us get to know Grandfather George (George MacDonald). Page 63 - "Mrs. Franklin, do you really and truly believe in God with no doubts at all?" "Oh, Una, I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts." But I base my life on this belief. Madeleine L'Engle is transparent with her struggles in a way that is humbling and illuminating. I will never be finished reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good in parts, long in others.

    This book is like a running inner monologue of the author, which in parts is delightful, thought-provoking, and entertaining. Sometimes, however, I felt that maybe someone should take away her soap box, but really, she's the author so that's her right. I didn't agree with everything she had to say, but I enjoyed the book anyway. I only gave it 3 stars because it took me a long time to chew through, like when you take a bite of steak that's not cooked right. I lost interest for a while, which is unusual for me. I'm not sure if I'm going to be purchasing the others in this series, but this book was good enough, I suppose.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2007

    A reviewer

    I read this book 20 years ago when I was in my 30's while raising a young son. I read it anew as a 51 year old woman-the same age Madeline was when she wrote this book. While the author rambles and focuses too much on writing skills, there are profound thoughts that have remained influential in my life these 20 years. It is a spiritual reflection on the life of a woman who journeyed to explore as many aspects of her person as possible.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2002

    Damn good

    Finally, an older person who can acknowledge truths about sex, God, and teenagers. Madeleine speaks frankly and from the heart. You have to believe in the things she's saying, already, though. Recommended for every idealistic artist-type. Absolutely wonderful. This book made my week.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2001

    Rekindling mystery, love and spirituality

    L'Engle captures the internal struggles of an artist. Her 'ramblings' hit home for women balancing demanding careers (especially careers requiring intense, creative thought) and family life. L'Engle rekindles the mystery of religion, love and creation while acknowledging her spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth. I have recommended this book to several other women - I hope it has the same settling effect on them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2001

    random thoughts of a 1970's grandmother

    I could hardly finish this book full of random, disconnected, obvious thoughts, writing lessons (including, believe it or not, a lesson on punctuation), boring events, and thinly veiled bragging. To make it worse, it's hopelessly dated.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 23, 2008

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    Posted May 1, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2009

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