Ilsa by Madeleine L'Engle


A novel about the darker side of love by the bestselling author of A Wrinkle in Time and the Crosswicks Journals. From the moment Henry Porcher first sees Ilsa Brandes, he worships her. Despite controversy surrounding the young girl, Henry is drawn to her, a fascination that turns into a lifelong infatuation.   As the years pass, Ilsa’s memory never leaves him, not until the day he returns to their sleepy Southern hometown and renews their chi...

Details Ilsa

Release DateFeb 7th, 2017
PublisherOpen Road Media
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction

Reviews Ilsa

  • Bookgasms Book Blog
    I have loved the books of Madeleine L'Engle since childhood, and even now those old paperbacks have an honorary place on my bookshelf, despite being worse for wear. Tattered covers, dog eared pages, those are the books that I read over and over again. When it came time to read Ilsa, I was as eager as I was nervous. An adult book by a favorite author? So much excitement. Yet, would it hold up to the childish idolization I judged the others by? I o...
  • rivka
    2.5 starsWhile somewhat interesting for its presentation of time and place, I mostly found this tedious and disappointing. It's mostly about things that don't happen, or that happened years before the events of the book.One of L'Engle's earliest works, and despite the claims of the publishers that have recently re-released it, there are good reasons it was so long out of print.
  • Libby
    UghWanders. Characters are weak individuals. I kept waiting for something definitive to happen but it never does. The ending was horrible.
  • Byron Reads Now
    The rare life-changing, new favorite read!This novel came into my life because it was on sale. Pure and simple, the eBook was on sale, and after looking into it, I took the plunge. But it came into my life at the perfect moment. And I can't overstate how much I have loved being within its pages.I'm shocked by the depth of feeling I have for this novel. I haven't been so transported and in some ways devastated since A Separate Peace. I am learning...
  • Mandy
    Everything in this compelling and very readable novel centres on Ilsa, a young woman who becomes an obsession for one of her neighbours, Henry, and it his unrequited love for her that powers the narrative. It’s an atmospheric novel, set in the American south in the early part of the 20th century, where lives are often still blighted by prejudice and bigotry, but where it’s impossible to escape the clutches of the extended family. It’s certa...
  • Misti
    Almost 5 stars, but a few things bugged me: the ending that just ended...wahhh??? And the narrator who was really there just to tell the story, very little character development other than maybe he didn't have a character? Otherwise, I was very pleased with this being my first L'Engle novel and I loved where it took place. I wanted more and wished it could have been developed a bit further.
  • Jim
    Underrated by the author, and darker than most of her other work, Ilsa is worth seeking out.
  • Laurel Bradshaw
    Setting: The American South, near the coast. Location not specified, but I'm guessing South Carolina or Florida rather than Georgia or Alabama.Time: a roughly 24-year period between 1900 and 1930.Main characters: Ilsa Brandes, Henry Randolph Porcher and his extended family. Told from the POV of Henry.Opening lines: "I watched the little girl for a long time. She sat on a rickety wooden fence that had never been painted any color. Now it had the l...
  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel
    Finally finished because I needed an ebook to read in the dark while getting over a days-long migraine. I honestly think ML accomplished exactly what she wanted to achieve with each of the many, many books she wrote. ‘Ilsa’ was not an enjoyable book nor an enjoyable character, because of Henry, the protagonist, and his doomed obsession for her, because of not being loved by his mother. Tied into the Patrick Melrose novels in unexpected ways.
  • Tracey
    If you’re a fan of A Wrinkle in Time and Madeline L’Engle’s many other amazing books, I would strongly advise you not to read this. The plot is flimsy, the characters are weak and boring. There’s a reason this book was out of print for a long time.
  • Lynn
    Madeleine L'Engle is famous for book A Wrinkle in Time. She wrote approximately sixty books. This novel is the second she published. The themes that concern her in the Time series of books can also be found here. I enjoyed it.
  • Kari
    I only finished this because it is my beloved Madeleine L’Engle but there is a reason it was out of print for so long.
  • Margaret Sholders
    Well, I admit I have never read one of Madeleine's books. I didn't have any idea what I was going to be reading. I worried that there were 67 chapters, even if some were short chapters. I made it through but I'm not sure what I read. This is set in the South. Mother ran the house and wow to the person who broke a house rule. This was the day of color too. This was a large family and not really all together. I did d like this story but this is a l...
  • Amie
    Just a bit too boring. It read like a play that goes on for too long, and as a book it’s even longer. There’s no resolution for the main character and the titular character isn’t mesmerising enough to credit his obsession with her.You can tell that the author was a play write, but not in a good way.
  • Gloria
    I love Madeleine L'Engle's young adult novels so I thought I would try this. The descriptive language is magnificent. The storyline, not so much. It was very dark and depressing and the ending left too many characters hanging.
  • Kelsi H
    Please read all of my reviews at!First published in 1946, Ilsa is one of the first adult novels from L’Engle, who is most well-known as the author of the children’s series, A Wrinkle in Time. Although it begins with a childhood friendship between wealthy Henry Porcher and bohemian Ilsa Brandes, this is certainly not a story for children. It is often dark and gritty, and even though some parts feel dated, oth...
  • Tami
    This was my first novel by Madeleine L’Engle and for the most part, I found it an engaging and enjoyable read. I definitely was more interested in the first half of the novel, but found last half a bit disappointing.The disappointment is mainly due to the character of Henry. We meet Henry as a young boy when he discovers a new friend, Ilsa, who is a few years older. He becomes fascinated by Ilsa. As the years pass, Henry never grows out of this...
  • Charity Dušíková
    The start of this novel was very Willa Cather-esque for me: meeting characters in their youth, the importance of the natural surroundings, a connection with nature, etc. I found myself immediately intrigued by Henry and Ilsa and wanted to know where their futures led. The book is told with a peak into Henry’s mind, yet it is Ilsa that has the more complicated sequence of events around her. I found the ending to be quite abrupt. I wanted more, m...
  • Madeline
    L'Engle never fails to draw me into her stories. I have read almost all of her books and enjoyed her characters immensely. Some more than others. In this book Ilsa is the main character but we meet and learn about her from Henry, her neighbour who idolizes her at first meeting. But he doesn't understand her because he does idolize her.Ilsa remains a mystery to the reader because we only know her through Henry's eyes. She is fond of Henry but she ...
  • Esther Bos
    This novel was published in the 1940's. L'Engle includes some beautiful descriptions in this story of a Southern family in the early 1900's. I am glad I read the entire book, but I got frustrated with the inability of the main character to change and grow. Henry becomes infatuated at 10 years old with Ilsa, a girl who is 3 years older, and continues to long for her throughout years of separation and nothing but friendship in their relationship. T...
  • Classical Lady
    This book really surprised me. I found this book at a library and fully aware of its rarity(also unaware of its recent availability as a e-book) got just out of curiosity. After a few pages a soon found myself fascinated, finding it difficult to stop. It was a sad book, but it spoke to me because of that. This story of Henry Porcher unrequited love for Ilsa Brandes through the years and the disappointments they both faced shows how hard life coul...
  • Joy Lynne
    I really loved parts of this book, particularly in the first half. I found myself highlighting passages to go back to later because I loved them so much. I would rate the first part of about four or five stars. The second half of the book was good, but read like an adapted screenplay, it felt like strings of scenes and acts and dialogue without the cohesiveness of the first part of the book. Overall, it was good and I would definitely read it aga...
  • Ioana
    I picked this up because of its intriguing title and my childhood love of Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series. However, I was disappointed that there was no plot and little character development in the book. Kept reading hoping for something interesting to happen but it never came. Wouldn't recommend. Only plus was that it created a lovely little country atmosphere and built up a nice setting, which was pleasant to be immersed into.
  • Emily
    Not my favorite L'Engle workI love all of L'engle's work. This book was a little strange though. The entire basis is one man's obsession with a girl from childhood through much of his adult life. While still good, this was my least favorite of Madeleine L'engle's work so far.The ebook edition also needs some more editing. There were many typos and while most of them I could figure out from context, a couple were quite confusing and in general the...
  • Andrea Engle
    Intriguing story of a young girl who grows up near the ocean in an unconventional household, and the boy who meets her, and falls in love, even though he is three years younger, a vast age difference when you are ten and thirteen respectively ... this being a book by Madeleine L’Engle, the childhood parts are best, but on the whole an entertaining read ...
  • Joyce Munz
    This is the first of L'Engle's adult books that I have read. The time is in the early 1900's in the South. The Confederacy is not dead, and "old" ways are to be treasured. I found Henry-the eternal admirer of Ilsa-very frustrating. The ending was at first unsatisfactory, but I then realized it was typical for a L'Engle book.
  • mandy
    First published over 60 years ago, this book has a different style than most novels today. It is slow and meandering, detailing the life of Ilsa Brandes over the course of 30 or more years. It is told in the first person - not by Ilsa, but by her friend Henry. It was probably 100 pages too long, and the ending was maddening. But it was still an enjoyable read, even if not that exciting.
  • Kate
    I have read every Madeleine L'Engle novel and while I like some much better than others I enjoy all of them at least in part. This is not one of my favorite books by her but it is still quite good. Her writing style always engages me and I find at least one character in every one of her books that I can relate to in some way.
  • Charlie Shaw
    Utterly detestable book that only a woman could write about a man who pines for a woman who is knowingly using him as her friend while at the same time knowing that he loves her very much. Finally, after years of unrequited love and her paramours, he decides to move on. Good riddance to bad soup!.
  • Jenelle
    Nice descriptive writing, and I liked the setting of the early 19th century South (as written in 1946), but reading about 30 years of Henry’s unrequited love made me like him less and less as the book progressed — and that was it, nothing really happened... like, nothing.