Dragons in the Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Woo hoo! Double cannonball for me! I actually cannot remember how many weeks ago I read this book (sad, I know). I’m pretty sure I can make it to a triple Cannonball with a spare bit of change, but a quadruple is looking pretty out-of-reach for me at this point. I’m not complaining. It’s been a good year of reading so far. And I’m delighted I got to reach this point with a L’Engle book.
Dragons in the Waters is the second O’Keefe family saga. This time, Dr. O’Keefe, Poly, and Charles are heading down to Venezuela on top-secret business. They encounter 13-year-old Simon Renier, who is accompanying his distant cousin Forsyth Phair there with urgent family business: the sale of a portrait of relative Simon Bolivar. While on the boat headed south, Forsyth is murdered and the portrait is stolen. All the crew and passengers become suspects, while Dr. O’Keefe’s secret mission, as well as Simon’s own destiny, are endangered by the slightest hints of social unrest. The mystery of the painting and the murder are both tied up in the secret mission that Dr. O’Keefe must find a way to keep discreet.
While this is not my favorite L’Engle, it was definitely an interesting and worthwhile read. You can tell that L’Engle has ecological leanings, and you sense that here. Further, her specialty is precocious adolescent characters, and they are on full display here. Simon is full of the same earnestness that categorizes Meg and Poly, which is both frustrating and highly endearing. Poly is shedding a bit more of her childishness and learning to see the world through teenaged eyes. You can see her progression, as well as her relationship to the world, more clearly than in The Arm of the Starfish, where she comes across as a too-precocious child.