Monday, September 6, 2010

Loving L'Engle

I recently re-read And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle for the first time in around ten years. The story is about a girl named Philippa Hunter—known as Flip—who goes to boarding school in Switzerland after the unexpected death of her mother. It's a coming of age story but it's also a love story and a story about forgiveness and acceptance. These are all themes that I find very appealing.

And Both Were Young made me think about where I was in my life the first time I read it. I think I was about twelve and I remember loving it from the first page. I re-read it at least several times over the years. Re-reading it brought me back very clearly to a time in my life when I was at the same awkward, gawky stage as Flip.

I was a little nervous to re-read a book I had loved so much as a teenager. What if it didn’t resonate with me as an adult? Would I have to admit that what I loved as a child was merely kid stuff? Fortunately, I loved it just as much as an adult as I did back then. I think that L'Engle still works for adults because she writes honestly and realistically about the emotional development of young women. She describes that awkward time when a young, smart girl feels stuck on the cusp of woman so eloquently that it almost makes me cringe to read it.

I actually met her once at a book signing at Bank Street College Book Store. She signed a copy of A Swiftly Tilting Planet for me and I was able to tell her how much her books meant to me when I was growing up. As I left, I realized that at least half of the line was made up of young women like me who probably told her the same thing. I’ll bet she never got tired of that.

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