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Camilla (Camilla #1)

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  2,486 ratings  ·  159 reviews
Life had always been easy for fifteen-year-old Camilla Dickinson. But now her parents, whom she had always loved and trusted, are behaving like strangers to each other and vying for her allegiance. Camilla is torn between her love for them and her disapproval of their actions.Then she meets Frank, her best friend's brother, who helps her to feel that she is not alone. Can ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 15th 1982 by Laurel Leaf Library (first published 1951)
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Deborah Markus
A reviewer at the Saturday Review compared Camilla to The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield and Camilla Dickinson, the protagonists in question, are a bit like Romeo and Juliet: he gets some terrific lines and flails around memorably, but she's the one who grows and matures and doesn't have an ego so huge it could eat New York City without having to open its mouth all the way.


I don't understand why Camilla isn't better known. As in, it doesn't seem to be known at all. It's a beautifull
Things I liked:
1) A book about a rich girl in 1950s New York. Even if she weren't likable, that would still be a fun read.
2) The characters are flawed, but nice. They are individuals, even if they do stick to their assigned character traits a little too vehemently.
3) The philosphical questions raised about growing up and being an individual were meaningful. Not so much to me, because I'm kind of past those, but they were real.
4) The romance between Camilla and Frank was nice. There were enough m
Jan 04, 2010 Annie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
I took a little sidetrek in my goal of reading all of the Austin family books. "Camilla" fits in nicely with them, because it has similar themes about growing up, realizing a person's autonomy, religion, the debate over what makes a person matter, and of course lots of discussion about life and death.

One more motif I picked up from this reading is L'Engle's use of cruel adults. In "Camilla" it was the family's maid and the geography teacher who denied having ignored Camilla's pleas to go to the
This is classic L'Engle - thoughtful, philosophical, family/friend-centered. Camilla is 15 years old, living with her parents in a nice apartment by Central Park not long after WWII. (At first, I thought the war referred to was the Vietnam War.) She has lived a sheltered life so far. Her parents have always been loving, unlike her best friend, Luisa's, parents, who are always fighting. But suddenly, issues that have been simmering for years boil over, and Camilla must figure out how to live her ...more
I recently went back and reread this, which was an odd experience because I'm now much more familiar with A Live Coal in the Sea, which tells Camilla's story when she's an adult.

One thing I love about L'Engle's worlds is that people actually grow up in them, and also that they're all interconnected -- Frank Rowan, who appears as a secondary but important character in this book as a teenager, shows up as a minor character in A House Like a Lotus when he's middle-aged. Camilla grows up and has chi
Madeleine, Madeleine, how could you? From the heights of A Wrinkle in Time to the depths of Camilla. Camilla is the most naive and self-absorbed fifteen year old I've yet encountered (in or out of literature). She's told by umpteen people that she's beautiful and smart and delicious and everyone loves her and she never once says anything positive to her poor friend, Louisa--- but only thinks how much Louisa victimizes her. And Frank!! Frank says to Camilla, "You made me do it" (shake her). What ...more
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. Why does Camilla think he's so neat-o anyway? He asks her like one thing about herself and then spends the rest of the time being moody and self-absorbed. Yuck. I kinda get that the idea is that everyone is flawed and at ...more
Andrew Bishop
The story of two dysfunctional families and the eponymous character at the middle of it all, Camilla. 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. Frank is the sort of blowhard that one could imagine had discovered Ayn Rand and had developed his massive ...more
Summary: In Camilla by Madeleine L'Engle, fifteen year old Camilla discovers her mother is having an affair. Her parents quarrel and her mother attempts suicide. Camilla's friend Luisa has parents who are also having problems and may even separate. Camilla begins to spend more and more time with Luisa's brother Frank who is seventeen and talks with her about deep subjects like death, life, and God. Unlike Luisa's immature friendship, Frank offers Camilla something more and she begins to have rom ...more
When I noticed Camilla on my local library’s shelf, I knew I had to pick it up because I adore her Time Quartet series featuring A Wrinkle in Time. And when I read the back cover copy and learned that it was about a 15-year-old girl figuring out her place in the world while walking the streets of New York City with her first boyfriend and discussing life, death, religion, and their deepest secrets and dreams, I knew that I had to read it immediately. I love novels set in the Big Apple, and the p ...more
'Oh, my gosh. Why did I just waste those precious minutes?' is what I thought after I read this book. 'Why was I tricked into thinking that Camilla would be interesting? Because she's wearing a blue coat and red scarf?'

Aside from the quirky color choices, which I must credit to the illustrator and not to Camilla, I couldn't bring myself to like Camilla, and I didn't necessarily see her maturation process through the story...and isn't that what a coming-of-age novel is supposed to be all about?
I don't think I've ever a book of Mrs. L'Engle's that I didn't like, though this one was certainly different.

I really enjoyed the "blast into the past", because this book takes place in the late (as far as I could tell) 1950s, and things are quite a bit different, though oddly similar to how life is now. It was a good tale of growing up, dealing with life's problems, and becoming an adult (and therefore yourself). A good read for young adults, which deals with some very difficult issues quite f
A terrible book the same way that being 15 is terrible, falling in love young is terrible, and becoming an adult instead of a child is terrible. Terrible, terrible. Many of L'Engle's books deal with child protagonist. This is a different kind of novel about the terribleness of leaving childhood behind and becoming an adult. Perhaps I make it's sound as if L'Engle hates adults. No, it is that I cannot forget as I read Camilla that it is not easy to grow up. I cannot forget the terrible sorrow of ...more
Liked it, although for a great while I found Camilla astoundingly "simple", as if she was 10 years old rather than fifteen. Especially after having read "When you reach me", wherein the 12-year-old protagonist has a more complex and nuanced view of human interaction and relations than Camilla does, I look back on "Camilla" as very dated, in writing style rather than the time when it takes place. It did get more interesting as Camilla broke away from her parents and began to act rather than just ...more
Alison Whittington
Sweet and charming. I am disappointed that my 15-year-old self didn't read this, because she would have adored it, but I still enjoyed it very much in spite of the fact that it is a young book (in maturity, not age, but that is not necessarily a fault, for a young adult novel) but just old enough in both setting and age that it feels old-fashioned without quite being old enough to be a classic novel. (In contrast to a Wrinkle in Time, which still feels timeless to me, as do most of Madeleine L'E ...more
Lisa Vegan
May 13, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: L'Engle fans who might not know of this book
This is not one of the better known Madeleine L’Engle books and it’s not about the Murray or the Austen families, and there’s no sci-fi in it. It’s a stand alone novel. A lovely story told from the point of view of the fifteen year old title character. I love all of L’Engle’s books and this one was another beautifully told story. It’s been years since I read it and it might be considered dated now, but there’s nothing that ever gets dated about L’Engle’s great storytelling and sympathy for her c ...more
Ergh. By the end of Camilla, I was more than a little tired of Camilla's consistently monosyllabic answers. She's supposedly deep and fascinating, but most of the time she just says things like "oh" and "yes" and "why not?". Every male in the book is sleazy, an asshole, or both. Every female is complacent, obnoxious, or both. Sure, there are rough situations in this world and it's good to read and write about them, but did every single character have to be so damn annoying? Camilla is guiltiest ...more
Before I read Camilla, the only books I'd read by Madeleine L'Engle were the Time Quintet, which I love. I'd tried to read The Other Side of the Sun but gave up, deciding I liked her sci-fi/fantasy better, though I might try it again. Right when Camilla starts it draws you in, setting an intriguing and charming scene, I believe in the early '50s. Though later in the book there is a boring lapse, one of my favorite parts was the way it described everything from that period in detail. I also enjoy ...more
Cindy Leow
This book is a coming-of-age novel set in 1950s New York about the fifteen-year-old Camilla Dickinson who has been sheltered her whole life, and now finds herself, in the midst of parental problems, meeting fresh new people and her first romance, questioning life and growing up and being an adult. Clad in a red beret & blue winter coat, she befriends her best friend Luisa's brother, Frank, and immediately she feels like he instinctively knows her and they're able to connect deeply about the ...more
This book is so incredibly underrated. I remember reading this book as a child, and feeling like I WAS Camilla, walking into a record shop to listen to classical music, the teenage excitement of first love, coming home to meet my mother's lover, all of it...I felt it was happening to me and I love this book to pieces.
I read this as a pre-cursor to reading its adult novel sequel, a Live Coal in the Sea. Reading Camilla, I remembered why I had abandoned it when I was a pre-teen. The character has none of the charm of the Austins, nor the intellect and whimsy of the Murry family. The novel seems designed to be a female answer to catcher in the Rye, but this is no masterpiece. As is the tendency with L'Engle's books for older readers, it is heavy on God talk; unfortunately it is light on plot and heavy on melodr ...more
I absolutely love Madeline L'engle's writing style. Her words are so beautifully crafted, each phrase like a perfect puzzle piece of ideas that fit together flawlessly.

However, I did not enjoy this story. The heroine, Camilla, was far too passive for my taste. She just let people walk all over her most of the time. And a lot of her supposedly good relationships with people were completely inappropriate, unhealthy, and emotionally abusive!

The story line was not pleasant, all about parents cheat
A wonderful read. I liked how I was never quite sure what was going on with Camilla's parents. Because we were seeing things from her perspective, it was easy to slip into her awakening.

It's very disturbing to discover that your parents are people, not just your parents. I think L'Engle did a great job portraying this realization.

Of course, I was frustrated with Frank by the end of the novel. But it consoled me to remember he is only a 17 year old boy. :)

Because this book has a very similar fe
While not all of L'Engle's stories may be enjoyable, her writing is always superb. Camilla was no exception. I disliked every character in this book, with the possible exception of Camilla herself. She cannot help it if she is a spoiled white girl in New York City in the 1950s. Her parents were sad creatures, her best friend was strange, the love interest was abhorrent, and the love interest's friend was a bit of a creeper. However I kept turning the pages and as it was short I finished in a few ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Judy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: introspective female teens
This was my least liked book by Madeleine L'Engle. She began writing romances suitable for a young adult audience and Camilla is one of those; another tale about a teenage girl having trouble with her parents. Camilla lives with these parents in an apartment in New York City. She loves them both though her father is a distant, undemonstrative sort and her mother is childlike.

When Camilla discovers her mother kissing another man right in their living room, she falls into confusion. She has to lea
Madeline L'Engle tells the oddest coming-of-age stories, but they're absolutely beautiful.

Due to the writing style, there is quite a bit of cheating first person narration. However that's the writing style, and I don't think that I could imagine these books any other way. It adds something to the novel, how the character feels to others. I don't think we're supposed to take it literally. It gives a sense of atmosphere that this is how Camilla sees people. In real life do we not judge others? So
Originally posted here.

Camila was first published in 1951 and although it got reprinted, the novel wasn't really updated. The story is set before the cyber age so there are no cellphones and computers in the book. At its core, Camilla is a coming-of-age story. As Camilla's parents struggle with problems in their marriage, their daughter slowly comes to realize that she's mostly lived a sheltered life. The book focuses on how Camilla comes to her own and how she learns more about herself. Camilla
The back reviews of the book stated that the book's title character can be compared to Holden Caulfield and this is why I became interested in it in the first place. Is Camilla the female Holden Caulfield? Yes and no. It is true that she is faced with issues like young Holden but hers seem so trivial compared to what Holden went through. I couldn't identify or conjure up any sympathy for her (even though my parents are also divorced) and I had trouble being interested in her affairs. The most in ...more
This is a very well-written contemporary (well, to the 1960s audience) young adult novel. I like to write in this genre, and I hope that my characters come to life and that my plot lines and themes feel as realistic and relevant to my readers as L'Engle's must have to her original readers. Being 26 now and already having gone through most of what Camilla experiences, I have a different take on the story. It's like reading Catcher in the Rye as an adult. I experienced the book very differently th ...more
I first read this book more than 10 years ago, in the midst of a quest to read everything that Madeleine L'Engle had ever written. I enjoyed it at the time, but forgot almost everything that happened in the intervening years. Then, when I was at a library book sale just a few weeks after Madeleine L'Engle's death, I found a copy of this book, and I couldn't help but buy it.

Even though it's called a romance, I would say that this story is more about growing up than anything else. It's a very cha
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Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regener ...more
More about Madeleine L'Engle...

Other Books in the Series

Camilla (2 books)
  • A Live Coal in the Sea (Camilla, #2)
A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1) A Wind in the Door (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #2) A Swiftly Tilting Planet (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #3) Many Waters (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #4) A Ring of Endless Light (Austin Family, #5)

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“And I can't say it now. I can't say what I want to say. I hold you-- I-- I clutch you, because I love you so desperately, and time is so short, we have such a little time in which to live and be young, even at best, and I put my arms around you and hold you because I want to love you while I can and I want to know I'm loving you, only it doesn't mean anything because you aren't afraid. You aren't frightened so that you want to clutch it all while you can.” 28 likes
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