The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle

I’ve been working on several projects this year: my Newbery project, my TBR list, and my Madeleine L’Engle project. I want, over the course of the next year or two, to read or re-read all of Ms. L’Engle’s books —or as many of them as I can find. I started with A Winter’s Love, published in 1957, my birth year. Here’s what I wrote about that book. I then read Camilla, one of her first novels published in 1951 and then re-published in 1965 after A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery and made Ms. L’Engle famous. I wrote about Camilla here.

During my blogging break in March, I re-read Ms. L’Engle’s first published novel, A Small Rain. It’s the story of Katherine Forrester, the daughter of two famous musicians. her mother is a celebrated concert pianist, and her father is an eccentric, but talented, composer. The novel follows Katherine through her lonely and difficult adolescence and ends with her plan to return to study with her beloved piano teacher, Justin, in Paris on the eve of what turns out to be World War II.

After reading A Small Rain, I had to skip ahead chronologically in Ms. L’Engle’s oeuvre and read A Severed Wasp, probably my second favorite of all Ms. L’Engle’s novels. She wrote A Severed Wasp (1982) as a sort of sequel to A Small Rain (1945) some thirty-seven years later. In this book, Madame Forrester Vigneras is an elderly woman beginning the task of looking back on her life and evaluating, forgiving, and coming to terms with the people and events that made her who she is. She has settled in New York City after a career as concert pianist travelling all over the world. The book contains multiple insights about love, marriage, forgiveness, aging gracefully, and simple grace, and it demonstrates maturity, wisdom, and craft gained by the author over many years of writing.

I highly recommend both books, read together if possible.

“. . . there was nothing Felix Bodeway couldn’t talk about, nothing he couldn’t put into words as facile as they were intense. And maybe that was good . . . maybe that was a way of exorcising things that worry you. For when you put something into words, it becomes an affair of the intellect as well as of the emotions, and therefore loses some of its fearsome power.” —A Small Rain

Words are useful for entrapping emotions and experiences and confining them to manageble proportions. It’s part of why I blog. I like using words and sentences to define my thoughts and feelings about a book or an issue or an everyday occurrence or even an episode of a TV show. Then, I can remember and re-examine and take out whatever is illogical or immoral or unreal, just leaving the true and the lovely essence of whatever it is I’m writing about.

At least, Truth is the goal. And truth, if one can get to it with words, even approximate it, does minimize, sometimes eliminate, fear.

Next L’Engle book to read: And Both Were Young, published in 1949.

What do you think about the covers of these 1980’s paperback editions? I’m not much of a design critic, but I think they’re odd with their pieces of face.

7 thoughts on “The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle

  1. I literally caught my breath when I opened your blog and saw Madeleine L’Engle. She is near and dear to me; I am reading the Time Quartet (Wrinkle, etc) for the Once Upon A Time Challenge. But, I loved A Small Rain, as well as everything else she’s written. Doesn’t she just speak to your soul? When I was much younger, reading her books helped me through many a troubled time. I always feel restored when I pick up something by her, even though I’ve read almost everything at least once. (Sherry, The Love Letters is my favorite too.)

  2. I have to read more of Madeleine L’Engle’s books. All I’ve read is A Wrinkle in Time and I’ve read that one numerous times. I think next up will be the rest of the time quartet.

  3. L’Engle is my favorite author and I read everything of hers I can get my hands on. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting a copy of Ilsa, that isn’t $$$. I’d just love to read it!
    A Small Rain has been my favorite book thus far, although there is something about Vickie Austin, the first L’Engle character that I was introduced to, that really speaks to me.
    I just ordered The Love Letters, per your recommendations.

    I really like And Both Were Young, Flip is another lovable L’Engle leading lady. Enjoy!

  4. @ Cassie. It has been a long time since you posted so you may never see this, but my library was able to get Ilsa for me on inter-library loan. Really enjoyed it. Wish I could find an affordable copy to buy!

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