A Winter’s Love by Madeleine L’Engle

Posted by Sherry on 1/1/2007 in Adult Fiction, Young Adult Fiction |

I have several projects for January; one of them is to read/reread the major works of one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle. Some of you may not know that Ms. L’Engle wrote adult fiction as well as the Newbery-award winning fantasy A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels. In fact, all of her books are difficult to confine to one age group or target audience. I think that’s because Ms. L’Engle wrote about her own concerns and didn’t consciously write to a particular audience.

A Winter’s Love was one of her early novels published in 1957, the year of my birth, before the success of A Wrinkle in Time. It was good story to start out my journey through Madeleine L’Engle’s books because it was one of her first novels published and because it takes place just before Christmas. The setting is a Swiss village resort in the Alps; Emily and Courtney Bowen (Courtney is the husband) and their two daughters, Virginia and Connie, are living in a rented chalet. The family is from New York, but Courtney is on a sort of writing sabbatical from teaching classics in a New York university. Sixteen year old Virginia is home for the holidays from her European boarding school, and she has a friend spending the holidays with here, Mimi Oppenheimer.

The action and conflict in the novel are internal, rather than external. Nothing much happens. Emily begins the novel looking out a window at the stars and thinking about her life; she ends the story standing outdoors in the snow looking over the landscape and thinking. Yet, from that beginning to that ending, much has happened inside Emily Bowen. She’s made decisions that will affect her family and her friends for the rest of their lives. The novel is really about a marriage and about the temptation to have an affair or get a divorce when that marriage isn’t working well. Not is Emily’s marriage not sustaining her; she has very little hope that she can ever communicate with and love her emotionally distant and closed husband, Court. And the Other Man, Abe Fielding, is so open and nurturing and available that Emily can’t help falling in love. She spends the rest of the novel trying to decide what to do about her new love and her old love and her children and ultimately herself.

As far as classification goes, I think this novel, were it to be published today, would be classifed as young adult fiction mostly because of the young adult characters, Virginia and Mimi, Sam, Abe’s son, and Sam’s friend, Beanie. However, the overwhelming theme of the novel is adult: what is the meaning of marriage and how does love grow and change and remain faithful to itself. I don’t think this is Madeleine L’Engle’s best novel, but it is a very creditable effort. She has at least three novels that were published before this one, Ilsa, The Small Rain and And Both Were Young, and I’d like to get those next so that I can read the novels in semi-chronological order. (I’ve already read A Small Rain and maybe And Both Were Young, but I’m planning to re-read them.) Virginia Bowen and Mimi Oppenheimer both appear in later L’Engle novels as minor characters.


  • Are you going to read a Severed wasp? I’ve finished it and could pass it on if you are interested

  • Sherry says:

    Tanks, I have a copy, and it’s one of my favorites.

  • Brenda N says:

    I must put some of her adult books on my reading list this year.

    A couple of years ago, I purchased the “Time Quartet” from a bookclub. My daughter had read those books but they had escaped me. I had such an enjoyable time reading through them. They are among my all time favorite books.

  • Carl V. says:

    We are reading A Wrinkle in Time for the Our Coffee Rings site and I’m looking forward to is as I’ve never read any L’Engle.

  • L’Engle is big on my list in 2007 as well! I haven’t heard of this book. I hope to read some of her Crosswick Journals books, as well as some of her fiction which I haven’t yet read. I can’t wait to read what you have to say.

  • zia says:

    I like her adult fiction just as much as her kiddie lit — or at least I used to. She has such an innocence about her that is so refreshing.

  • Jen Robinson says:

    I love the interconnections in L’Engle’s books, too. I enjoy trying to keep track, and piece things together. I also enjoy that in D. E. Stevenson’s books (though less literary, they are among my favorite comfort books).

  • Semicolon says:

    […] I’ve been working on several projects this year: my Newbery project, my TBR list, and my Madeleine L’Engle project. I want, over the course of the next year or two, to read or re-read all of Ms. L’Engle’s books —or as many of them as I can find. I started with A Winter’s Love, published in 1957, my birth year. Here’s what I wrote about that book. I then read Camilla, one of her first novels published in 1951 and then re-published in 1965 after A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery and made Ms. L’Engle famous. I wrote about Camilla here. […]

  • Semicolon says:

    […] I need another reading project in my life. I’m already reading through the Newbery award and honor books, re-reading the works of Madeleine L’Engle, and working on my TBR list. However, I just couldn’t resist Carl’s (Stainless Steel Droppings) Once Upon a Time Challenge. The Once Upon a Time Challenge will take place beginning Thursday, March 22nd (I’m late, per usual) and will end on Midsummer Night’s Eve, June 21st. The challenge is to read five fantasy/folklore/faery related books in that period of time. Actually, as you can read at Carl’s site, the challenge is more complicated than that with different “quests” to choose from, but I’m simplifying. So here are my chosen books for the challenge, chosen mostly from my already long TBR list. […]

  • Semicolon says:

    […] And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle. I read this one for my Madeleine L’Engle project, but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing it. […]

  • Semicolon says:

    […] My Madeleine L’Engle Project. Oh, boy, I get a three-fer when I re-read A Wrinkle in Time—since Sawyer was reading it on the beach in one of the LOST episodes first season and it’s a Newbery Award book, too. […]

  • […] L’Engle Project: Yet another reading project. I started back in January trying to read through the works of Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favorite authors. […]

  • […] in 1965 as simply Camilla, probably reworked to some extent. 6. A Winter’s Love, 1957. Semicolon review here. 7. Meet the Austins, 1960. The first in the Austin family series of books. 8. A Wrinkle in Time, […]

  • Kerrie says:

    Thanks for conrributing this post to Suggest a Christmas Title Semicolon

  • […] Lurs by Harry Behn. Semicolon review here. A Winter’s Love by Madeleine L’Engle. Semicolon review here. The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks. One of my favorite YA titles of all time is a basketball […]

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