Round 1, Match 6: The Penderwicks in Spring vs. A Ring of Endless Light

Judged by Mireille • Find her on Goodreads

The book battle is a weird thing, because it’s hard to appreciate a book on its own merits, knowing you’re supposed to compare it with another one. Ideally, you’d read both at the exact same time, and try to refrain forming an opinion until the end. As it is, I feel like the first book you read often has the edge – it’s true for two out of three times for me, at any rate. And if you like the first book a lot, then every negative thing about the second one just comes out more sharply.

In this case, I loved the first book to pieces. And then… it was a slaughter.

I’m sorry. I know a lot of people love A Ring of Endless Light. And I don’t want to spend 500 words talking about all the things I didn’t like about it. But honestly, apart from one single element (“Vicky called me and I came.”), I didn’t like anything about it. It was incredibly depressing, with an added layer of morality that I didn’t care for. And not just depressing like “being a teenager is hard”, but filled with an unrealistic amount of death and drama. I hated Zachary and couldn’t understand what he was doing in the book, and the fact that Vicky didn’t just throw him to the curb made me like her much less. I didn’t like Leo, either, and was only very meh about Adam. I thought the family setting was good – I liked the house in the stables, and the whole family together with Grandfather – but even that got a little too much (the singing every night? the many discussions about religion?). And the dolphins were lovely. But yeah, I had zero fun reading this and would have stopped a quarter into it if I didn’t feel like I had to keep going for the battle.

And Penderwicks in Spring was so delightful! It made for such a great contrast! I loved every single thing about it! I spent the last third of the book just sobbing my heart out – trying to be quiet as I read in bed besides my sleeping husband – and yet it is such a happy, joyful book, I am amazed. I loved all the Penderwicks, and I loved the feeling of the book – it reminded me of Anne of Green Gables so much that until we read about Skye on her computer I wondered if it was a period piece. All of these numerous people under one roof, and the tight-knit community of neighbours! It was obvious that Stuff had happened in previous books, but I didn’t feel like I was missing some key info by starting with #4 (whereas I suppose Zachary is built up a bit in previous L’Engle books). The ease of jumping into a series isn’t really a quality by itself, I think, but it helped in this case.

I loved the found family, I loved Lydia’s speech patterns, I loved Ben and his rocks and Minnesota. I thought there was so much humor (“How could such a person as Oliver come from a state with so many great rocks?”) and warmth in this, I wanted to wrap the universe around me like a comforting blanket. The characters were great, the relationships felt real – though Skye’s reasons for not being with Jeffrey were the only thing I didn’t like. The parenting in this is wonderful, there’s just so much LOVE everywhere, really! I loved the dogs. I loved how it was a quiet book but it still had “adventures”.

So, maybe third time will be the charm for Endless Light, but for now, The Penderwicks advance easily.

Congratulations to The Penderwicks in Spring, which moves on to round 2!


15 thoughts on “Round 1, Match 6: The Penderwicks in Spring vs. A Ring of Endless Light

  1. My only problem with starting with #4 is that I had trouble distinguishing between the three older sisters for a while. I went back and read the other three books afterward and I think I would have liked it even better if I’d had that buildup of the characters. But I thought Penderwicks in Spring was simply lovely.

    1. I started with #4, too! (Though I think I read the first Penderwicks years ago, and wasn’t particularly impressed. Oh well. Certainly didn’t remember it.) But I didn’t have any problem distinguishing them – probably because I was SO GRATEFUL their names didn’t all sound the same, or all start with R’s, or something terrible like that.

      1. I had to keep reminding myself “college girl, smart girl, writer girl” for about the first third and frequently got Skye and Jane mixed up. That made it funny when I read the first one and Jeffrey’s mother kept mixing them up too.

  2. I probably shouldn’t comment on these too much since I’m the round three judge for this half, but I’m so happy about this assessment of The Penderwicks. It was nice to hear that it stands up for a person who hasn’t read the first three books.

    I’m going to go back and comment on the posts I’ve missed while dealing with family stuff.

    1. I keep wondering if it feels period or just timeless? Or if there are certain periods of time – like Elizabeth Enright’s stuff – that’s so idyllic and nostalgic (no phones! Doors unlocked!) that we associate those periods with timelessness? (Or is that just me?)

      Because this book, to me, except for the computer/Afghanistan mentions, feels like it could’ve happened any time in the last 100 years, and not particularly tied to an era.

      1. Wellll, I’m not sure it feel like it could’ve taken place today, without those mentions. Technology is a pretty huge part of people’s lives. And they seem to live in a safer world than we do.

      2. I have felt that about all of them – it’s a big part of their charm for me. Perhaps it’s a somewhat romantic notion of childhood, but it’s nice to think that children can still just be children without all the worldly angst and everything being seen through an ironic glass. Hillary McKay is like that for me, too.

  3. I wasn’t all that wild about ‘A ring of endless light’ either, so I’m quite happy to read I’m not the only one who does not love that book unconditionally.

  4. I love the Penderwicks, and I really loved that one, although I just BAWLED practically all the way through (she so well captured the heartache of the loss of a dog). This match-up might have been a tough call for me, though, because I really loved A Ring of Endless Light as well. The only thing is that I haven’t read it for literally decades, and I don’t know how well it would stand up. I know what you mean about the preachiness and “oh jeez are they going to sing grace AGAIN” 🙂 I would have been happy with either choice, but I’m not-so-secretly pleased to see the Penderwicks advance because I thought the L’Engle would beat them.

  5. I haven’t read any of the Penderwicks books, but I did read A Ring of Endless Light many years ago and loved it despite feeling a bit uncomfortble about the preachiness and the implied smugness about how wonderful the family is. I suspect I’d feel even more strongly about that on a re-read now.

  6. Well, technically I read Ring of Endless Light first (for last year’s Battle), though I’d read all the other Penderwicks before that. Not wanting to mess up your hypothesis or anything, but I’m very grateful to you for sending me Penderwicks instead!

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