Review of Madeleine L’Engle’s Camillia

Madeleine L’Engle has never been one to mince her words or define her relationship with God in superficial terms. CS Lewis often had a didactic tone when speaking of spiritual matters whereas Madeleine L’Engle beautifully weaves prose that is simplistically deep. Despite her skills, she has been overlooked within the Christian world mostly because she probes her faith and makes some very reasonable,but controversial inquisitions about her faith overall.

Camilla, one of her earliest novels, is designed as a classical romance that is very philosophical in its nature. Anyone who has ever felt excessively quirky within the world will relate with Camilla and her realistic problems. She is the daughter of two parents within a deeply unhappy marriage. This discord causes Camilla to have very sharp doubts about romance as a whole. Nearly all teens feel uncomfortable with the chaotic pace of romance and the unrestrained quality to passion. Camilla’s experience is further complicated by the unpleasant reality of her parent’s marriage.

Many Christians novels feature these unhappy marriages as some unfavorable image of marriage that is antithetical to the entire vision of a blissful marriage. It is meant to perfectly match St. Paul’s rendering of the thriving two-fold relationship between the church and Christ. Yet, Madeleine L’Engle realistically documents the inherent complication which all seemingly happy marriages face internally. Camilla realizes this and is excessively anxious about her own romantic prospects.

The portion of the novel that is dedicated to the depth and philosophical nature of her first love showcases the robustness of emotive love. Oftentimes, we are confronted with images of transitory sexual love that mostly skims the surface of a deeply developed love that is constructed on the base of delving into another person’s heart and learning to love the dichotomy between their faults and strengths. In many ways, Madeleine L’Engle accurately shows the fundamental quality of love that does not need to translate to anything nuptial. True love can persist in the art of rhetoric or the efforts humans make to penetrate the surface level of others and learn to marvel every person’s interior mystery that reflects the enigma of God.

By the end of the novel, we are left with a story that transcends the shallow layer of many romantic tales and offered a story that is far more than a romance novel alone. In many ways, Madeleine L’Engle ended up writing a poignant tale that reflect Aristotle’s formula of love that is intrinsically spiritual and not vacuous. It presents love that mirrors our own relationship with the intangible essence of the divine that has inspired many prophets and artists for ages. (She evocatively writes of this relationship with the divine and the artist within her wonderful novel “Walking on Water: On Faith and Art.”) By plumbing the mystery of another human and learning to appreciate their mystery, we are learning to love God in the same manner. Our love with God is forged when we accept his enigmatic qualities and embrace that search for him that refines our self throughout our lives.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ZDee says:

    Silly JB, you made a separate blog to talk about politics and religion, but yet here you are reviewing books that discuss they same thing. Way to cheat. 🙂


  2. Justin B. says:

    Its unavoidable with this book and the other one because they do deal with religious and philosophical themes. I'm not good at keeping promises, Senita.


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