Camilla's Roses

Book Reviews / Friday, September 1st, 2017

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 img_4109Camilla’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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3 Replies to “Camilla's Roses”

  1. One of the characters in Bernice McFadden’s novel “The Warmest December” is so powerful, the depiction took my breath away. The writing sent me on a search to collect every book she has written.

  2. Loving your new site but even more your analysis of the story. I hope to improve mine this year but must take a lot of notes as I tend to forget points I want to make when I go back. I do not own any of Ms. McFadden’s books but you are peaking my interest. I also like the idea of reading a well-published author from the beginning to the present to watch the evolution. I look forward to hearing more about her books and your thoughts. I am working on new content for my book blog soon. I somehow fell off the routine. Have a blessed day my friend!

    1. Hello Belinda! Happy New Year! Glad to see you’re still around and hopefully coming back to do book videos more frequently. This year there should be a lot of reading fo African-America authors. Denise D. Cooper is spearheading #readingblackout2018where she will be exclusively reading African-American authors or the the year. Of course you know there will be #readsoullit in February with a read along of Tar Baby. So now you have loads of reasons to come back and to be present.

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