Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin

The Enchanted April was written in 1922 by Elizabeth von Armin, an Australian-born English novelist who became German nobility by marriage! Elizabeth had a varied and perhaps not an entirely happy life and her marriages seem to have been troubled.

Perhaps she wrote this gentle, funny, sweet comfort of a book to escape into a world where even fading love could be restored. I hope she found as much happiness in writing it as I got from reading it.

The Enchanted April tells the story of four very different women who, for one reason or another, make the spur-of-the-moment decision to rent a small castle in Italy for a month in spring. Mrs Lotty Wilkins hasn't had a holiday for a very long time; at home, she feels both dominated and ignored by her economical lawyer husband. Sweet, gentle Mrs Rose Arbuthnot used to be madly in love with her Frederick, but her pious disapproval of the way he makes money writing about famous royal mistresses has slowly but surely driven a wedge between them. Elderly Mrs Fisher, who finds a way to make people realise that she is in charge of things, rejoices in the personal friendships she had in her youth with all the great Victorian authors. And Lady Caroline Dester, an unhappy young society beauty, only wishes to nurse a broken heart.

Under the spell of an Italian spring, surrounded by sunshine and flowering gardens, one by one lives and marriages are transformed. The book is slow-moving and lazy, like its characters, but weaves its spell so surely, with such deft touches of characterisation and the gentlest possible satire, that you'll only luxuriate in its pace. And at the end of it, you'll feel like you just spent a month in an Italian castle, too.

Gutenberg etext
Librivox recording

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