Book Review: The Joys of Love

The Joys of Love
The Joys of Love by Madeleine L’Engle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

During the summer of 1946, twenty-year-old Elizabeth is doing what she has dreamed of since she was a little girl: working in the theatre company on the sea where she is an apprentice actress. She’s never felt so alive. And soon she finds another passion: Kurt Canitz, the dashing young director of the company. Then Elizabeth’s perfect summer is profoundly shaken when Kurt turns out not to be the kind of man she thought he was.

Moving and romantic, this coming-of-age story was written during the 1940s. As revealed in an introduction by the author’s granddaughter Léna Roy, the protagonist Elizabeth is close to an autobiographical portrait of L’Engle herself as a young woman—“vibrant, vulnerable, and yearning for love and all that life has to offer.”  -GoodReads


I enjoyed reading this book! L’Engle has such a unique writing style; she can take a side-character with a toothache, and make their toothache be a philosophical commentary on the fantasy vs. reality of emotional entanglements, weaving it so perfectly into the storyline that you barely realize she’s doing it. As always, brilliant writing!

The setting is a 1940s summer theater company where Elizabeth is an apprentice, learning to act. She has a crush on the young director, Kurt, but is best friends with the assistant stage manager, Ben. Love triangle goodness ensues.
I think if I were at all interested in acting or the theater, I would have enjoyed this book much more. I liked the plot and the characters, but it didn’t deeply appeal to me as some of L’Engle’s other books have done.

I really liked the character of Elizabeth, because she makes mistakes and says the wrong thing, but then she owns it and apologizes. I wish she had more backbone, but when it really counted, she showed her mettle finely!
I hated Kurt so much! He’s so manipulative, and I wanted to scream at Elizabeth, “Don’t you see?! He’s manipulating you! He’s a selfish jerk!” Agh.

I think Ben was the most interesting character in the whole book. He’s always teasing everyone, but never mean-spirited. He seems to vacillate between pride and humility, and I love how he’s always trying to take care of everyone. He’s a little bossy, and I think he gets frustrated with people who are being stupid, but then he has pity on them too. Figuring him out was the best part of the book! He’s a complex person.

The plot moves pretty slowly, focusing on the small but important things of everyday life that end up changing the big events in life. The way L’Engle writes it, it suddenly becomes very important whether or not someone eats icecream or goes for a walk, because somehow that will affect their decision to play MacBeth or love someone new or make an enemy of a friend. It all ties together in a big jumble with strings of everyone’s choices affecting everyone else.

Of course, I adore L’Engle’s books, and this YA romance is a good one!

View all my reviews

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