Camilla

Camilla

by Madeleine L'Engle

Life had always been easy for fifteen-year-old Camilla Dickinson.

Can Camilla learn to accept her parents for what they are and step toward her own independence?

  • Series: Camilla
  • Language: English
  • Category: Young Adult
  • Rating: 3.61
  • Pages: 288
  • Publish Date: November 15th 1982 by Laurel Leaf Library
  • Isbn10: 0440911710
  • Isbn13: 9780440911715

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I don't understand why Camilla isn't better known. He asks her questions and sneers at her answers, probably because all he wants from her is for her to say, "Oh, Frank, that's wonderful!" Which she generally does. Frank has just spent the last million pages talking about his ideas about life, the universe, and everything. Anyway, he finally pauses for breath long enough to offer to take Camilla somewhere they can get a bite to eat. "No. But you go on and have something if you want to." "Me, you think I could eat?" Frank turned on me and his voice was suddenly savage. Death isn't fair," Frank cried again, his voice soaring and cracking with rage. But it's hard to have sympathy or empathy for Frank Who Thinks And Feels So Much More Deeply Than We Do That He Can't Eat when this is his response after he brought up food in the first place. But if you were (or are) a kid who spent a lot of time wondering about the world and your place in it, and who went on walks at night hoping "to talk to someone else who wanted to be out all night walking too," and who would rather have one good friend you could talk about everything to than a bunch of friends who only ever chatted about boys and clothes you could do a lot worse than read Camilla.

Things I liked: 1) A book about a rich girl in 1950s New York. They are individuals, even if they do stick to their assigned character traits a little too vehemently. I think even in the 1950s people didn't really talk like that. 2) As I mentioned in my second "like," it was as if L'Engle wrote down three adjectives for each character, and then that's all they were allowed to be, for the whole book. Allow me to tell you about it in detail!" 4) Camilla's coming-of-age drama wasn't especially meaningful for me. Actually, it made me reflect on other coming-of-age stories I've read, and how none of them really had satisfactory endings, either.

I took a little sidetrek in my goal of reading all of the Austin family books.

Camilla grows up and has children in A Live Coal in the Sea. Meg Murry has several books of her own and then has children who get several books of their own.

This is a difficult book to recommend because the writing is excellent, but the characters - Camilla excepted - are horrible people incapable of any meaningful self-reflection. Frank, the brother of Camilla's best friend Luisa, manages to be worse than the terrible parents in both families. Camilla - who let me add is exposed to more condescending bullshit than your usual female character on Mad Men - is the saving grace here as the book is narrated from her perspective. While this creates some sympathy for Camilla's mom, Rose, it also highlights what makes Luisa and Frank so frustrating as they've inherited their parents worst qualities.

Summary: In Camilla by Madeleine L'Engle, fifteen year old Camilla discovers her mother is having an affair. As Camilla's character develops, she learns that she is beautiful, like her mother, but no longer a naive child.

Until now, Camilla has lived the sheltered life of a wealthy only child, but her parents crumbling marriage forces her to grow up fast and question so much more about the world around her than she ever has before.

This is classic L'Engle - thoughtful, philosophical, family/friend-centered.

Frank says to Camilla, "You made me do it" (shake her).

Just couldn't find anyone to like in this one.* Not Camilla's cheating mother or emotionally distant father or Camilla herself, even, especially after she ditches her best friend Luisa to spend time with a boy (her best friend's brother Frank, no less!) who was also unlikeable. *The person I liked the best was the veteran they visit, and I can't think why as he was pretty messed up and slightly creepy...

At age 12, she moved to the French Alps with her parents and went to an English boarding school where, thankfully, her passion for writing continued to grow. She had a baby girl and kept on writing, eventually moving to Connecticut to raise the family away from the city in a small dairy farm village with more cows than people. They moved back to the city with three children, and Hugh revitalized his professional acting career. As the years passed and the children grew, Madeleine continued to write and Hugh to act, and they to enjoy each other and life.