The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

I was a bit behind the times in reading this, as I bought it months ago and was fully intending on reading it in April, but then time went by and my stack of to be read books increased, and somehow The Enchanted April slipped down the pile and only managed to peep out of its hiding place behind many other books and arrest my immediate attention two weeks ago.  So instead of reading this in a crisp, blooming April, I read The Enchanted April over a sweltering, airless week in June while sitting on a stuffy, sweaty, overcrowded London commuter train. One would think that this was a depressing period of time over which to read such a novel, about four strangers renting the beautiful old castle of San Salvatore in an Italian coastal town during a glorious, sun and flower filled April, but I actually enjoyed the experience. It made the powers of my imagination even more important as I read while gazing over grubby chimney pots and high rise offices…as I sunk even deeper into this wonderful story, I leant against the train window and could almost smell the ‘wistaria’ and feel the fresh clean Italian air on my face. Once I had put the book away for the day, and was sitting at my desk, I found myself daydreaming about how I could change my life to experience the freedom, both physical and emotional, the people in this book found once they had removed themselves from the restrictions and expectations of their every day lives. Where would I go? What would I discover about myself? Important questions to ponder whilst pretending to work.

On the day I finished this wonderful novel, I found the lovely painting below attached to a Times article about summer reading, and for me, it perfectly illustrated the relaxed, beautiful, contented atmosphere I imagined at San Salvatore. The book concerns four previously unconnected ladies who all, for their own reasons, want to get away from it all for a while. Lottie Wilkins, a rather downtrodden young wife trapped in an unfulfilling marriage, finds an advertisement in a newspaper while lunching at her club- ‘”To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small Mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the Month of April. Necessary Servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times” – and unexpectedly finds herself wanting to answer it. By chance she finds a similarly unsatisfied woman, Rose Arbuthnot, sitting in the same room who has also seen the advertisement, and after much discussion and advertising to find two suitable ladies to share the cost of renting the castle, they find themselves in Italy. These four women, each with their own agendas and troubles, will soon see their whole outlook on life begin to change as the usual ties that bind them to their unsatisfactory lives at home are broken. Unlikely friendships are made, peace for troubled souls is found, a spirit of generosity replaces hearts that have become hard and selfish, and love blossoms among the flowers, sunshine and gentle breezes of an April in Italy.

This is gentle, peaceful, inspiring literature; it is not the most powerful or impressive prose I have ever read, and neither is it action packed, but it delighted me, charmed me, amused me, and gave me the chance to leave London for a precious hour or so every day, even if I had only left in my imagination. An absolutely stunning read, and not just for April, either.

Please do get yourself a copy here and read it. At the top is a photo of the painting by the Hon Lady Mallet which forms the frontispiece of my lovely first edition, which was purchased from the ever reliable Oxfam online. Oh, Oxfam and your reasonably priced guilt free books…how I love thee.

Read it, enjoy it, immerse yourself in imaginary sunshine and flowers. And then go on to watch the film. I am waiting with anticipation to see it myself, but will have to wait until finances permit such indulgence!

13 comments

  1. I adored this book, which I saved until April this year, for full impact. Haven't read any other E von As yet, but have a few on my shelves.

  2. Welcome to the world of blogging, and welcome to LibraryThing and the Virago Modern Classics Group!Rob ("rbhardy3rd" on LibraryThing)

  3. I love love love love this book and have read it dozens of times. I have all of this author's output on my shelves and it is a wonderful mixture of humour and serious. Serious – read Vera, Mr Skeffington. Funny: Elizabeth at Rugen, princess Priscilla's Fortnight. I love all of her books

  4. I read The Enchanted April this April and found it exquisite. I immediate bought some more Elizabeth Von Arnim books but haven't read any yet.I am also a member of the LibraryThing VMC group🙂.

  5. Just stumbled onto your blog (due to curiosity over your thoughts on Welty), so forgive me if you’ve addressed it elsewhere, but did you ever see Newell’s film? An absolute favorite of ours!

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