“She began to feel the sense of wonderful elation that always came to her when beauty took hold of her and made her forget her fears.”
The only Madeleine L'Engle book that I had read before this one was A Wrinkle in Time. Which I loved. I thought that I was going to love this book as well. My overall impression of this book was that it was old fashioned. It was set in the late 1940's, but I thought that it had been written in the early 80's. Only because I had dated A Wrinkle in time to that time (wrong! Cursory googling reveals 1963 as it's publication date) Can writing be dated?
Anyhow, And Both Were Yong is the story of Flip a young (15 maybe?) American who is sent to a Swiss boarding school by her artist father in the late 1940's. As one is. She kind of hates it and I completely see why. No privacy, no freedom, and she are surrounded by the most boring group of girls on the planet. But then she meets Le Love Interest.
Flip is a tough nut to crack as a reader. She is kind of whiny. She has a bum knee, isn't particularly smart or beautiful. She is socially awkward and also kind of a kiss-ass. It's hard to relate. She isn't bookish, which would have been a gimme. I will relate to anyone and anything if only they are a reader. Seriously, bookish serial killer? I am going to find him sympathetic. She is a bit arty, but she isn't allowed to read, sketch, listen to music, much at this school. This is probably realistic but led to more than one inane conversation. I did identify with her introversion. At one point she is so desperate to be alone for just a few moments that she starts going to the chapel to hide and pray. Which, of course, isn't allowed because being an introvert is wrong. Despite all this, I did end up liking her. She had a dogged persistence and endearing awkwardness to her that I finally warmed up to.
Paul certainly isn't a typecast YA hero. I don't have an overwhelming picture of him. I know he wants to be a doctor, has a dog, and speaks French. He feels young to me. Or maybe immature? Not in a, "I enjoy fart jokes" way more in a natural innocence kind of way. It makes me reflect that maybe it is true that kids nowadays are growing up faster and faster. Even the girls who were boy crazy and talking about marriage (to someone eventually) were so silly about it that it is hard to take them seriously.
The main story was a romance. Or at least I think that the main story was a romance. It was pretty low key. There wasn't much chemistry, but they were sweet together. There was an adorable scene with him sitting on the foot of her bed wrapped in a quilt while they whisper. It is all very innocent.
I finished the book twenty minutes ago, and I still couldn't tell you them plot. It is one of that year in the life books but not vignettes. Blah, blah, blah, something about making friends, amnesia, art, and skiing. None of these things seems to have long range consequences. The plot is secondary to character and description.
Things that I liked: There were some interesting details to the school that made it feel real. The girls are from all over the world but are supposed to speak French all the time. However in the manner of multilingual communities often their sentences are in English, French, and English all mixed up. I watch children do this everyday, so it is the sort of detail that I appreciate. Madeleine L'Engle is a master of the perfect unobtrusive detail.
This book was certainly nostalgic for me, but I have become accustomed to a more driving plot and character arc. I am not sure than I am going to make my way through the rest of Madeleine L'Engle backlog.
Flip doesn't think she'll ever fit in at the Swiss boarding school chosen by her father's girl friend. 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. Yet despite her newfound happiness, there are times when Paul seems a stranger to her. And since dating is forbidden except for seniors, their friendship 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?