Throwback Thursday [#8]: And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Square Fish | Paperback, 272 pages | Original Publication: February 15th, 1983 | Read: 2011 publication | Young Readers 9-12 | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


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Original 1983 cover.

My experience with this book is not very pleasant. I mean, it wasn’t bad. No, not at all. I suppose it  can be compared to when one is reading the back of a Raisin Bran box of cereal while shovelling spoonfuls of them in their mouth: it’s good for you but in the end, it’s no choco puffs. The thing is, I feel like I’ve been gipped. The blurb at the back of this book advertises FORBIDDEN ROMANCE in big, bold letters. And if you know me, you know that’s a huge bait. Besides, it’s MADELEINE L’ENGLE! How could you now want to read this?! Well, I did. And I’m sorry to say, it was a tad disappointing.

The writing is very odd. I suppose it reflects the era from whence the novel took place. The dialogues are very clinical, and some too formal. But again, that probably had more to do with the way people spoke at the time (post-World War 1).

This is the story of a young girl sent to a boarding school in Switzerland. Flip’s father, being a traveling artist, did not want to take Flip around the world with him. So Eunice, his companion, suggested she goes to a boarding school.  He’s also made it a goal in life to search for all the missing kids displaced during the war. What I don’t get is why his travels brought him to China when the war was centred in Europe.

Eunice, the woman who wants to replace Flip’s mother in her father’s life,  plays the quintessential evil step mother role: very haughty, expects too much of Flip, and very critical of Flip. And I guess the reason why Flip was so against the boarding school to begin with.

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Blurb at the back.

In the boarding school, we see Flip be her awkward self. The girls call her “Pill” instead of Flip, and we see her stumble haplessly in every social situation. With the help of her Art teacher and her nephew, Paul, she starts blossoming on her own.  We see her adapt and accept her lot in life. But while I enjoyed seeing her come of age, I was still a little confused about how old the kids were.

There was also supposed to be a romance between Paul and Flip, but to be honest, they were better off as siblings. I really wish they didn’t packaged this book as having a forbidden romance because of two things: one, there wasn’t any. And second, it was an awkward romance.

What I enjoyed about this book was the depicted life on a Swiss boarding school. Though Flip had to go through a version of bullying (aka, hazing) at first, in time, the girls eventually warmed up to her. I especially liked the shown camaraderie during Christmas time. It was gorgeously described. It makes me want to stay at home on Christmas and create our own family tradition.

Over all, I almost feel like it’s sacrilege to say I didn’t quite enjoy this book. I can compare it to someone listening to an aria in a monotone voice. Lifeless novel, packaged as a romance that didn’t exist.

  • “I suppose it can be compared to when one is reading the back of a Raisin Bran box of cereal while shovelling spoonfuls of them in their mouth: it’s good for you but in the end, it’s no choco puffs.” LOL. Best comparison ever. I am sorry this one wasn’t what you hoped it would be. It wasn’t even on my radar and let’s just say i’ll leave it there.

  • Aw, I’m sorry you had some issues with this book Joy. But glad you still enjoyed it 😀 It isn’t for me, but I do like the covers. Both are pretty gorgeous. <3 Thank you for sharing about it sweetie 🙂

  • Well it sounds like an ok book, you didn’t enjoy it but you didn’t hate it. So many books in this category so I don’t think I’ll try it…

  • That would have to be one of the best euphemisms for a book I’ve ever read, absolutely brilliant! Even for 1983, that cover screams the 1960’s to me. Reminds me of one of those romances your mother used to read. I’m sorry you couldn’t enjoy this more, I think it’s also the era, not being known for it’s awesome romances. It seems like it was all a little too Brady Bunch back then. All smiles and no substance. I hope your next read blows your socks off!
    Great review <3

  • Oh, I just noticed your newer cover at the top. Much better, but it seems a little like cover fraud. Slap a modern enticing cover on a bland dated story. :/

  • That cover alone is so dated! The MC name Flip is also a turn off. Sorry this didn’t work out for you, Joy. The story does sound kind of bland. I always find it so hard to write a review for a book that I didn’t hate, but I didn’t love either. Doesn’t really bring out strong feelings either way. This sounds like one of those.

  • The original cover actually looks like something that would disappoint me (yes, I judge). It’s sad that it didn’t quite meet your expectations. I hope your next read is better!

  • LMAO! The fact that you compared this book to reading the back of a cereal box is reason enough for me NOT to add it to my wishlist anytime soon. Some writing styles stand up to the test of time, but unfortunately it doesn’t sound like L’engle’s is one of those. A romance without a love story is no romance at all if you ask me.

  • I hate when a book turns out to be a flop, especially when we just *know* we’re gonna love it! Boo! :c

  • Such a fun idea!
    So of course I love A Wrinkle in Time, but I remember being a kid and trying later books in the series and not really liking them. When I was in middle school, I remember reading MLE book called A Ring of Endless Light — it was about dolphins and there was a romance. Maybe I will try to re-read it 🙂
    Jen @ YA Romantics

  • Aw sorry you were let down by this one. I can definitely see where your coming from. That’s too bad. Better luck with the next one!

  • There is nothing worse while reading than being disappointed. Sorry this didn’t pan out for you.