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Camilla (Camilla #1)

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  2,847 Ratings  ·  193 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 Cam
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published November 10th 2009 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published 1951)
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Deborah Markus
Sep 10, 2014 Deborah Markus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 15, 2011 Danielle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 08, 2016 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, young-adult, romance
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
Aug 19, 2009 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2009 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 20, 2012 Beth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2012 Andrew Bishop rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 19, 2012 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?
Oct 08, 2014 Alexandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2011 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
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
Mar 01, 2010 Kiri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2011 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2016 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ehhhhh I liked what this book tried to do. But it was very philosophical and existential, and every character had some deep issue that they all seemed to be able to express through very fluid, beautiful language. Because apparently everyone is perfectly eloquent. It just seemed like random introspective. It annoyed me how overly dramatic it was. There were some nice moments, and the characters were not one dimensional (except Camilla, oddly, who actually seemed the least likable character.) But ...more
Christy Baker
Jan 06, 2016 Christy Baker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I picked up this young adult novel of Madeline L'Engle's having recently read the adult novel, Live Coal in the Sea, that has the same main character, Camilla Dickinson, as an older woman reflecting back on her life. In this novel, she's a 15 yr. old girl just beginning to learn of the mixed feelings of love and loss and the frustrations of betrayal at that in-between stage of not quite adult, no longer a child.

I appreciated that L'Engle, like all good writers of YA, don't diminish the feelings
E. Ce Miller
The first fifteen years of Camilla’s life have been largely comfortable—at least as far as she remembers. She and her family live in a spacious and luxurious flat in New York City, and although Camilla can see the apartments of less-privileged families out her window, the residents might as well be worlds away from her, for all the connection they have. But when Camilla’s mother begins having an affair—one about which she behaves nauseatingly coquettish—Camilla’s secure life begins to fall apart ...more
Nov 25, 2014 Mayra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2016 Genevieve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I don't expect you can live to be very old without having someone you love die. And all kinds of other dreadful things. And I think it's whether you go on staying alive or not that makes you what kind of a person you are. I think it's terribly important to be alive. There are so many dead people walking about, people who might as well be dead for all they care about life, I mean." p. 160

A beautiful book about growing up, and learning that your parents are actually individuals, flawed and human
Aug 21, 2015 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blurb from the back of the book: 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 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 Camilla learn to accept her parents for what they are and step toward her own independence?

Reason I picke
Mar 01, 2010 Gabriella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sheela Word
4.5 stars. Beautifully written novel, set in the 1950's, about a burgeoning relationship between a rich girl from a dysfunctional family and a poor boy from a dysfunctional family. Like the children's book, "Roller Skates," by Ruth Sawyer, "Camilla" is also about the thrill of living in and exploring New York City, with its diverse neighborhoods, complex social strata, and many remarkable people.

This is a complex and rather sad coming-of-age story, warmed at its core by the decency and intellig
Jun 01, 2016 Michaela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book was written in a much early time (the 60s) making it feel, in some ways, a little outdated. However, I would recommend this book to anyone. She deals with big concepts about growing up, finding yourself, and recognizing or seeking to understand God's place. While those concepts seem so oftenly discussed, she does it in a natural way woven into the young protagonist's life. It is not action based, but follows a small time in the life of young Camilla as she experiences first love and is ...more
I didn't like this one that much. Camilla is a young 15-year-old, grappling with the disintegration of her parents' marriage, and taking it hard. She starts hanging out with her best friend's brother, who wants to talk about God and death a lot. I didn't buy the premise of their relationship much - it just didn't work well for me. Camilla also seems pretty immature and self-involved and just kind of bugged me. At the end, her parents decide to send her off to... where else? boarding school. Made ...more
Jun 27, 2016 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is told in the first person from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old teenage girl who lives in New York. Camilla has been quite sheltered from adult problems, but we meet her when she starts to realise that her parents may be fallible, and that she is no longer a little girl...

Essentially it’s a coming-of-age story, about teenage worries, and first love. It feels quite modern in the way it discusses relationships and marriage problems, despite being written in 1965. There is a moving su
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
Jan 18, 2015 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Camilla (2 books)
  • A Live Coal in the Sea (Camilla, #2)

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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.” 35 likes
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