The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim – review

Published by Vintage

Publication date  – 9 July 2015

Source – own copy

Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, cowed and neglected by their husbands, make a daring plan: they will have a holiday. Leaving a drab and rainy London one April and arriving on the shores of the Mediterranean, they discover a flower-filled paradise of beauty, warmth and leisure. Joined by the beautiful Lady Caroline and domineering Mrs Fisher, also in flight from the burdens of their daily lives, the four women proceed to transform themselves and their prospects.

Read more on the Penguin website

Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot meet unexpectedly in their club, both having spotted the advertisement for a month-long rental of an Italian castle by the sea. Both desperate to leave their lives behind for a short while they agree to rent the castle between them, engaging Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher to share the costs. Soon the magic of Italy casts it spell over the four women and they find themselves changed in unforseen ways.

Any of us lucky enough to go on holiday know that they can have a magical effect on the psyche. A break away from the norm, from everyday worries, helps lift the spirits and forget, albeit temporarily, issues that may plague us at home.

Mrs Wilkins blossoms, much like the wisteria, almost as soon as her feet land in Italy. She becomes Lotty, first to Mrs Arbuthnot, then to the other women, much to Mrs Fisher’s consternation. She is transformed by the castle, seeing herself and her husband in a new light and is so certain that the others will see themselves differently too. Mrs Arbuthnot, soon to be Rose to her new friends, soon starts to view her own life differently, becoming more melancholy as she begins to perceive that her choices may have impacted her relationship with her husband. Mrs Fisher is determined to separate herself from the others, taking over the best sitting room and studiously ignoring the radiant Lotty. Lady Caroline too is determined to separate herself from others, tired of being pandered to and pawed, too aware her beauty and charm have an odd and not always welcome effect on others. However all four women soon find the magic of Italy changes them in unforseen ways.

This is not just a book about four disparate women, thrown together. It is a comedy of manners, of breaking down social barriers, of forging friendships and rekindling passions. It is about finding the time and the inclination to love yourself and your life. And about finding the time to just sit in the sun.

My April was enchanted reading this wonderful novel. I could easily imagine myself walking around the grounds, taking in the beautiful views and being caught up in the exuberance of Lotty and the gentle charm of Rose and Lady Caroline. A joyful, fun, and sometimes moving novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I shall now practise my wafting whilst I look out for more of Elizabeth von Arnim’s work.

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    Lovely review, I like the look of this one. I’d buy the book for the cover alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Karen. It is a lovely cover, so evocative. Makes me want to don a linen dress and sun hat 🙂

      Like

  2. Kate W says:

    I was late to discovering this book as well but like you, was thoroughly enchanted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      So glad you liked it too Kate. I’m throughly enjoying discovering so many wonderful books that have so far passed me by 🙂

      Like

  3. TripFiction says:

    It’s a lovely book, isn’t it. Great review…. and as Karen says, what a beautiful cover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks. It is a lovely book. Glad to hear you liked it too. Vintage did a fabulous job designing the cover for it too!

      Like

  4. It’s a lovely book, isn’t it? Perfect smiley reading. I love the idea that you’re going to practice your wafting….!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I love the term smiley reading! I think if any book was designed to turn a person to wafting it’s this one 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. heavenali says:

    Such a gorgeous novel. I love EvA so much. I must read her again soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      This was my first book by her, but I must rectify that. Glad to hear you loved this one too 🙂

      Like

  6. Great review Janet! I loved this too and you’ve captured exactly why 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you! Glad to hear you loved it too. It is a charming book.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. MarinaSofia says:

    So pleased you enjoyed it – it’s wonderful escapism, but nevertheless with very pertinent observations, an utter delight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I agree with you completely, perfectly put 🙂

      Like

  8. Wow, love the new cover, such a great read, the first of her books I was introduced to was Elizabeth and her German Garden, which is also a great read. Wonderful review Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Claire. This is the first book of her’s I’ve read but I’ll keep a look out for Elizabeth and her German Garden. Glad to hear you liked The Enchanted April too 🙂

      Like

  9. I love The Enchanted April! If you haven’t yet seen it, I’d highly recommend the film adaptation as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Glad to hear you liked it too Jessie. I’ve not seen the film but I’ll look out for it. Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely review Janet, I’ve read this a few times and each time delight in the nuances captured… and I can’t deny escaping life for such a month in Italy is my ultimate writerly-retreat fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Poppy. Glad to hear you love it too. And yes, the idea of escaping for a month does sound fabulous 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A lovely review of a wonderful book – I hope there are many more of EVA’s books out there reading to step into your line of vision.

    Like

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