Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ilsand* (for Island*)

No woman is an island, but Madeline L'Engle really stands out in a sea of young-adult and adult fiction authors. And if you happen to possess a copy of her second book, Ilsa, published in 1946, it looks like you may own a very special work indeed. (Ilsa is a young teenager who lives with her naturalist father in a beach house somewhere in the Deep South; later she moves to Charleston, South Carolina, with its many coastal islands.) I first fell in love with L'Engle when my sixth-grade teacher read A Wrinkle in Time out loud to the class. Soon after that, I found a copy of Camilla (1965) at the public library, and have remembered it fondly, if somewhat vaguely, ever since. Just the other day I stumbled upon a paperback copy I'd picked up somewhere and decided to read it again. The story of Camilla Dickinson, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives in Manhattan with her beloved but troubled parents, the book introduced me to a number of "grown up" problems and issues. And reading it again has briefly brought me back in time, the actual "wrinkle in time," so to speak, in which I can see myself standing in a smallish room at the back of the smallish public library of my youth, and the shelf where I first laid eyes upon this book over forty years ago. That's just the kind of writer Madeleine L'Engle is. In order to read Ilsa, however, I will probably have to avail myself of ILL. According to Wikipedia: "Unlike virtually all of L'Engle's other novels, Ilsa has never been republished or reprinted. Although no official explanation has ever been given, the book's continued unavailability appears to stem from the author's own reported dissatisfaction with the book... Nevertheless, this is one of the most sought-after titles for serious collectors of Madeleine L'Engle's work." There are only five copies listed on AbeBooks, all of them upwards of $300. We found three instances of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 22 in WorldCat.

(Book cover and dust jacket of Ilsa by Madeleine L'Engle, first and probably only printing, Vanguard Press, 1946, no ISBN. Cover art credited to "leslie." Courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

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