Camilla’s Roses is Bernice L. McFadden’s sixth novel. I’ll have just reached the halfway mark on my book challenge to read all of her books in order of publication this year. So far this has been an interesting challenge. I’m enjoying observing how her writing style has developed and improved with each novel.
Not knowing what to expect, I have to say that Camilla’s Roses took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. The novella is separated into three distinct parts – the present, the past, and the present. McFadden uses the section on the past to show us Camilla’s upbringing, her relationship with her family, and her coming of age. She is born to two parents who are weak, incompetent, and driven by their personal demons. Luckily for Camilla she is raised by her grand-parents despite the difficulty of having to take care of so many people in their home. With all the difficulty of growing up that Camilla had she only wanted to leave and to never look back once she went off to college.
The novella develops twists and turns in ways you won’t be able to predict. With sensitivity McFadden exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly of the ups and downs of life. “We forget about the people we love sometimes.” (Camilla’s Roses, p. 120) Camilla learns that she can’t hide from her past and her family, for this is what has made her who she is. However, is she ready to reconcile with all of those difficulties in her past and become an even better black woman in the end?
Bernice L. McFadden’s writing style in Camilla’s Roses can be described as rhythmic and sharp. At times the transitions are so quick that if you’re not paying attention you just might miss a piece of important information that’s been dropped unexpectedly. This story is tightly recounted and gives loads of information throughout, which is probably why the second part, the past, is the longest part of the novella. It gives Camilla’s and her family’s back story. Despite it’s 203 pages, I didn’t feel too unsatisfied at the end, although I’d have liked to have seen what became of her husband.
For any of you out there interested in reading more from black women writers Camilla’s Roses wouldn’t be a bad place to start. I’d say it’s a little snack of what is to come if it’s your first read of Bernice L. McFadden. I think I’d have to suggest Sugar as the ideal first book to pick up from McFadden’s list of novels because it is an incredible story with complex and unforgettable characters. If you’re interested in themes that touch on black women, black community, mother/daughter relationships, colorism, and more Camilla’s Roses is for you too. Check out the video below to learn more about how Bernice L. McFadden started her writing career.
My copy: Camilla’s Roses, hardcover, 203 pages (Dutton)
My rating: * * * *
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