Camilla Summary

  • Last updated on June 13, 2023

Camilla, written by Madeleine L'Engle, was first published in 1951 and is a coming-of-age novel. The book is 252 pages long, and the genre can be classified as young adult fiction.


The story of Camilla centers around its titular character, a young woman who is living with her maternal grandparents in New York City. Camilla's parents are wealthy and absent, and she has been left in the care of her grandparents while they travel the world.

Camilla's life is turned upside down when her father, who has become seriously ill, asks that she be returned to him in California. Camilla is hesitant to leave her beloved grandparents behind but ultimately agrees to move west and live with her parents in Los Angeles.

Camilla's new life in California is marked by a sense of dislocation and confusion. She feels out of place in her new, luxurious surroundings and struggles to connect with her parents, who seem to be equally uninterested in forming a relationship with her.

As Camilla begins to adjust to her new life, she meets Frank, a young man who is studying at the same college she is attending. Frank is kind, intelligent, and interested in Camilla's inner life, and the two become close quickly.

Camilla's relationship with Frank is complicated by the fact that she is also being pursued by a wealthy older man named Robert. Robert is charming and manipulative, and he wooes Camilla with gifts and lavish attention. Despite her misgivings, Camilla begins to fall under Robert's spell, entranced by his sophistication and wealth.

As the novel progresses, Camilla is forced to make some tough choices. She must choose between the safety and security of Robert's wealth and the freedom and authenticity she feels when she is with Frank. As she grapples with these decisions, she also begins to confront the fact that her parents may never be the loving figures she needs in her life.

Throughout the novel, L'Engle explores themes of self-discovery, the struggle between conformity and individuality, and the importance of family and community. Camilla's journey to find herself and forge her own path is a timeless tale of coming of age that continues to resonate with readers today.


Camilla Dickinson - The titular character, a young woman coming of age in New York City and later Los Angeles. Camilla is thoughtful, introspective, and struggling to find her place in the world.

Frank - A kind and intelligent college student who becomes close with Camilla. Frank is sincere and interested in Camilla's inner life.

Robert - A wealthy older man who pursues Camilla relentlessly. Robert is charming and manipulative, using his wealth to try to control Camilla.

Camilla's parents - Wealthy and absent, Camilla's parents are an elusive presence throughout the novel.


Self-discovery - The novel is primarily concerned with Camilla's journey to discover herself and find her place in the world.

Conformity vs. individuality - Camilla is torn between the desire to fit in and the need to be true to herself.

Family and community - The importance of family and community is a recurring theme throughout the novel, as Camilla grapples with the absence of her parents and the search for connection and belonging.


Camilla tells the story of a young woman's journey to find herself and forge her own path in a world that often seems hostile to individuality and authenticity. Through its exploration of themes like self-discovery, conformity, and the importance of family and community, the novel has become a beloved classic of young adult literature that continues to inspire readers today.

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