Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
I loved reading Madeleine L’Engle’s books about the Murray family when I was younger and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that she also has some YA books. I read Camilla last year but didn’t really fall in love with it. I’ve been wanting to read And Both Were Young ever since but didn’t get a chance to do so until I saw that the hardcover was available for 20% off in one of the local bookstores here.
Here’s the summary from Madeleine L’Engle’s website:
Flip doesn’t think she’ll ever fit in at the Swiss boarding school. Besides being homesick for her father and Connecticut, she isn’t sophisticated like the other girls, and discussions about boys leave her tongue-tied. Her happiest times are spent apart from the others, sketching or wandering in the mountains.
But the day she’s out walking alone and meets a French boy, Paul, things change for Flip. As their relationship grows, so does her self-confidence. Despite her newfound happiness, there are times when Paul seems a stranger to her. And since dating is forbidden except to seniors, their romance must remain a secret. With so many new feelings and obstacles to overcome in her present, can Flip help Paul to confront his troubled past and find a future?
I’m so glad they decided to re-issue this one with a new cover and that I didn’t have to hunt down an out of print copy. I love the new cover too, I like how the pink stands out against all that snow and how it portrays Flip and Paul taking a walk. And Both Were Young is similar to Camilla in the sense that it’s a quiet sort of novel. However, there’s more to look forward to in the former and I enjoyed reading it more than the latter. Even though I’m an outgoing person, I could relate to how Flip had a hard time fitting in at her Swiss boarding school. Language isn’t a problem because she’s fluent in French and all the girls are required to speak that. She just doesn’t get along with the girls in her class and even her roommates. I love it when Flip said that she’s lonely but she’s never alone. I have a feeling that if I ever went to boarding school, I’d still have a hard time like Flip did especially since I’ve never shared a room with anyone before and I’ve never been athletic (which is a huge factor in Flip’s school). Girls can be mean without knowing that they’re doing it and I guess that’s what Flip had to deal with. Good thing she finds a friend in Paul, another loner that she meets while she’s out for a walk. Also, Flip finds happiness in observing the beauty in her surroundings and trying to capture that in her artwork.
This is a very sweet novel and I was smiling when I finished reading it. At only 256 pages, it’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting. And Both Were Young reminded me of old school novels for girls like Little Women maybe because it’s set in a different time and yet I could still feel for the characters. I was rooting for Flip right from the start and it made me happy watching her gradually adapt and become more comfortable around her classmates. She started out hating the school and counting down the days until her father can get her away from the place but eventually makes friends with the other girls and even her art teacher. I also enjoyed the setting, Switzerland seems like such a beautiful place based on Flip’s descriptions. How I wish I could go there someday and maybe even see snow for the first time. There are a lot of things to like in this book: Flip’s close relationship with her father, the friendship and subtle romance between Flip and Paul, the effect of the war in the characters and how some of them have tragic pasts but the book never became too heavy. I highly recommend it to YA fans, it’s a nice break from all the contemporary and paranormal reads out there.