I've been doing a L'Engle read for the last year or so & decided to read this standalone in connection with a genre reading challenge for one of my goodreads groups - February is romance month. I previously read this book back when I was in junior high/early high school. It was originally published in 1949, which makes it one of her very early novels (it appears this was 3rd), and I probably read it around 1978.
It is quite dated, but that doesn't mean it isn't also enjoyable. It is set in a Swiss boarding school, which was one of the things that fascinated me when I read it as a public school student growing up in Boise, Idaho. A Swiss boarding school seemed like one of the most exotic, interesting things ever and I frankly envied Philippa for what I perceived as a wonderful opportunity.
This time around, I enjoyed the fact that Flip was obviously an introvert, and I was interested in how L'Engle approached her introversion. Being an introvert in a boarding school would be tough - it's not a place where solitude is easily accessed. Being an introvert myself, I felt for Flip and understood her hunger to spend time alone, and didn't like the way the various characters approached her need for quiet. No one really seemed to understand, much less respect, the fact that a young woman might need to spend time alone to recharge her batteries. This rings really true, even today. Flip didn't always handle herself well, but her peers also really didn't understand her, and they seemed to expect that she would change to suit their expectations, rather than suiting their expectations to her character, which was frustrating.
The romance is extremely chaste, with some mild kissing between Flip and Paul. I also grew up skiing, which might have been another reason that this book made such an impression on me as a young woman, since a ski meet represented a major plot point in the book.
There is apparently an updated edition of the book which restored some of L'Engle's original manuscript which had been cut by her publishers because it either referenced death or was "sexually suggestive." Set in Europe in 1946, many of the various characters are dealing with the aftermath of WWII and the Jewish genocide. More than one character has family that was murdered in the concentration camps. It is sort of astonishing to me that, given the time and the subject matter, it was considered appropriate to sanitize that topic. And, having read it, I can't actually imagine how the words "sexually suggestive" could've been applied to this book. All of the adult characters appear to be celibate, and Paul and Flip share a couple of kisses.
I don't think it has worn quite as well as some of L'Engle's other work, but I still enjoyed rereading it and revisiting the young woman that I was when I fell in love with it for the first time. Philippa Hunter apparently makes a cameo appearance in one of the later works, A Severed Wasp, published in 1983.