Book Review: The Enchanted April

enchapril1This month, my book club read The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim, appropriate because it happens to be April, but also fitting because I needed a good chick lit. book after not reading any for awhile. 

Published in 1922, the book features women emerging from Victorian culture without fully embracing the early feminist emancipation values.  At times, it’s sugary sweet and a little too good to be true, but it’s also a nice antidote to the way the real world typically works.  Shakespeare would often send his characters to a magical place where wonderful things could happen (nicknamed the “green world” by literary critic Northrop Frye).  In this case, it’s a castle in Italy. 

Who wouldn’t like to run away to an Italian castle for a month, to relax with new friends and enjoy the seacoast? Four British women rent the San Salvatore castle for the entire month of April, but prior to renting it, none of the women know each other.

Mrs. Lottie Wilkins initiates the vacation after reading an advertisement in the newspaper and asks a woman from her church, Mrs. Rose Arnott, if she would join her. The two women advertise for other renters, and end up with Lady Caroline Bramble and Mrs. Graves as castle mates. 

Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Arnott have less than ideal marriages, so their escape to Italy offers them a vacation from their unhappy home life. The beautiful and wealthy Lady Caroline merely seeks a place of solitude away from her many suitors and admirers.  And the widow, Mrs. Graves, seeks a retreat worthy of her own romantic idea of herself and her illustrious dead friends.

The castle and the Italian landscape works its magic on these women, and they grow into changed people over the course of their month long stay.  Much of the book is narrated through the four women’s inner monologue, so it’s a highly character driven, meditation filled book. But it surprisingly read very quickly and reached a very satisfying conclusion.

I’m looking forward to watching the BBC version of the book, and perhaps even an upcoming play that the Taproot Theater will be doing in the fall.

This would make an excellent vacation book, largely because it’s about a vacation, but also because it’s an easy read that’s highly enjoyable.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ooooh! This is at the top of my favorite movies list! I watch it all the time, and am so glad to see it’s coming out in DVD finally, as we recently got rid of our VCR! Have you read any of her other books? The Caravaners was entertaining I thought….in a cynically humorous way, regarding her views of men and husbands and how they treat their wives and what they expect from them.

    AL: Oh good! I’m still waiting for it at the library, but your recommendation makes me even more excited about it. I didn’t realize that she wrote so many other books. I’ll have to look up the Caravaners. I’d briefly read about her first one, which sounds like it also could be good. I’m glad that I found another female author that I can read, especially one with several works to enjoy.

  2. Dear Amy,

    Thanks for your clear review on this book. The Enchanted April is actually one of my favourite books; I can read it again and again. I don’t know what is so special about the book, but it always makes me want to sit in the garden, drink Chianti and basically just feel happy! Definitely a feel good book to me, although I would not call it chicklit, more ‘easy’ literature. The references to pre-war culture are just wonderful (especially mrs. Fisher appeals to my imagination). Anyway, I see the sun is shining, so time to sit in the garden.

    Kind regards,

    The Netherlands

    AL: Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts and love of the book! I really enjoyed it an hope to read more by that author!

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