Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Engle in Many Voices

In Listening for Madeleine, Leonard Marcus shapes the reflections of a wide range of Madeleine L'Engle's relatives, friends and colleagues into an unconventional biography--more of an oral history--of the award-winning novelist through the perspectives of those who knew and were influenced by her.

Marcus organizes the 50 interviews presented in the book according to the context in which the party knew L'Engle: writer, mentor, friend, family member or fan. While certain of her characteristics seem to have been evident to nearly everyone--her work ethic, her keen intellect and curiosity, her faith and spirituality--other facets of her personality were revealed, or experienced, less uniformly. For example, while many considered her giving, generous and warm, others perceived these qualities as part of a persona she cultivated rather than as natural attributes. Some of those closest to her have challenged that presentation, noting that L'Engle was a storyteller and writer of fiction, which extended to aspects of her own story.

If that's the case, then L'Engle's four memoirs, collectively known as the Crosswicks Journals, may not be genuinely autobiographical--or, at any rate, they may not be completely, factually accurate. That said, Listening for Madeleine isn't genuine, traditional biography, either. Rather, Marcus has assembled a fascinating, impressionistic portrait of a complex woman, a portrait that might best be considered as a companion to the Crosswicks Journals, giving readers the opportunity to see Madeleine L'Engle from a variety of angles. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

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