The Joys of Love, by Madeleine L’Engle;
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 2008;
When twenty-year-old Elizabeth is offered a chance to work as an apprentice at a summer theatre, she is overjoyed and feels as if she is experiencing a whole new world. There’s more going on at the theatre than just acting—Elizabeth finds herself in love with the handsome, grown-up, experienced Kurt Cantiz, a director. Suddenly small-town little Liz is whirled up into a turmoil of emotions. I found this book intriguing from the very beginning!
Interestingly, The Joys of Love takes place over a period of merely four days. Each day is described in detail and accentuated by flashbacks that slowly reveal the story of Elizabeth’s chaotic childhood.
Part of what made the story so interesting to me is Elizabeth is an extremely compelling heroine. She is always seeking to do the right thing, but is constantly questioning what is right. She is a character anyone can empathize with, and she gives the book intrigue.
Elizabeth is very naïve about love. Now at the theatre, she is exposed to many different types of relationships. Liz has a friendly connection with easygoing Ben, but while she looks up to and desires Kurt, she feels unsure of his feelings for her.
Elizabeth’s inexperienced position is very similar to mine. I’ve spent all my life on the island of Hawaii, in the small town of Kailua-Kona. Our tiny airport consists of Auntie’s Leis, and the only place to eat is an ice-cream stand. The first large airport I ever saw was in San Francisco. I went on every escalator, elevator, and moving walkway I could find! Like Elizabeth in the big world of theatre, I was amazed.
As the book progresses, I learned that Elizabeth’s father died when she was thirteen, and she never knew her mother. This made me feel sad for Liz, because my parents are very important to me, and I can’t imagine living without them, especially, like Liz, if it was in a home where I’m barely even tolerated. Elizabeth has never had modeling about what love really is, so she’s confused and overwhelmed by the myriad types of relationships she finds in the theatre.
This difficult childhood also contributes to Elizabeth’s lovable character. She has had a hard life, but won’t let anything stop her in pursuing her goals. Elizabeth is passionate about theatre, similar to how I feel about writing. I write because it’s something I love, and, as in Elizabeth’s case, persistence will make me better. This is also true for the author of the book, Madeleine L’Engle. For years L’Engle poured out many novels that weren’t published, The Joys of Love among them. Finally, in the 1960s, several successes transformed her into a world-famous writer. Now, a year after her death, The Joys of Love is out, a testament to L’Engle’s diligence, and a lesson for Elizabeth, me, and everyone.
In the end of the book, Kurt betrays Elizabeth’s trust, and she also realizes that there’s more to love than simply looking up to someone. She comprehends that Kurt always needs to have relationships with girls because he is actually insecure and needs to feel appreciated. Elizabeth finds true friendship with Ben, and they decide to stay in touch.
The Joys of Love is a story about love, self-image, and coming of age. It is a delicately woven drama that I enjoyed immensely and would suggest to any reader!