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The Enchanted April (1922)

by Elizabeth von Arnim

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,4911095,144 (4.07)1 / 573
A discreet advertisement in 'The Times', addressed to 'Those who Apppreciate Wisteria and Sunshine...' is the impetus for a revelatory month for four very different women. High above the bay on the Italian Riviera stands San Salvatore, a mediaeval castle. Beckoned to this haven are Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs Arbuthnot, Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester, each quietly craving a respite. Lulled by the Mediterranean spirit, they gradually shed their skins and discover a harmony each of them has longed for but never known. First published in 1922 and reminscient of 'Elizabeth and her German Garden', this delightful novel is imbued with the descriptive power and light-hearted irreverence for which Elizabeth von Arnin is renowned.… (more)
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    An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym (digifish_books)
    digifish_books: Another fine English novel in which a vacation to Italy brings the complexities of personal relationships to the fore.
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    A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (SylviaC)
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    Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim (Booksloth)
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» See also 573 mentions

English (104)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (108)
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
I just read this in preparation for the next few episodes on the Literary Life Podcast. This is the first time I have ever disliked reading a book while simultaneously understanding and believing that it is genuinely a good book. My reasons for disliking it are purely personal; the story pressed on old wounds that are still quite painful. I usually avoid books like this but I’m glad that I read it and I’m glad that I don’t have to read it again. ( )
  EmilyRaible | Sep 27, 2022 |
In the words of Cole Porter, It’s delightful, It’s delicious, It’s de-lovely

The Enchanted April is sweet and soothing and heartwarming, like the holiday we find ourselves on with Lotty, Rose, Caroline and Mrs. Fisher. First off, I loved all the descriptions of the grounds and the gardens. I could see the Judas tree in bloom, the wisteria draping the arbors, and smell the frecias. The idea of a medieval castle in Italy was as charming to me as it was to Lotty Wilkins when she encountered the advertisement telling her it was available for let in April.

Lotty cannot afford a castle on her own steam, but she devises a plan that makes it possible by letting it on share with three strangers. These women are each dissatisfied with the lives they lead, they are lonely, they are stifled and they are unhappy. Over the course of a month, we watch them blossom, just like the flowers. There is nothing spectacular here, no tense dramatic plot line, no scintillating love story, but there is charm and a lesson about what you owe to self over what you owe to others that today’s women, who are busy in a different way, could still learn from.

I fell completely in love with Lotty. She was positive and friendly in the best possible way. I loved the way she bonded with the other characters and pulled them together. I loved her forgiving nature, her political incorrectness, her ability to separate the important from the petty, her honest and free nature, her love for life.

I enjoyed every paragraph of this charmer and it was exactly the breath of fresh air that I needed...my own little holiday in Italy.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
I plan on watching the film sometime, so I wanted to read the book first.

It's over a century old now, and yes, I like reading older novels sometimes for the language: when it's different and clever and I can't predict how the author will string all the phrases together. I was hoping for a read with characters engaging enough to hold my attention even if the story wouldn't be in a rush to make "stuff" happen. I certainly got that here, being fully interested in the characters despite my not liking some of them some of the time.

But I didn't know the novel would be so delightfully funny! The imagery is lovely, as I expected, and the characters evaluate their lives while they're on their holiday, as I also expected. I expected the human transformations as well, though I couldn't tell ahead of time what each transformation would be. (Possible that not all of those transformations would really last too far past April, but hey. I'm fine leaving practicality out of it for certain shimmering fiction.)

But the humor! How refreshing. Wonderful wit pointing out the unfortunate, the ridiculous, the curious, and the dear.

A tale a century old, yet holding enchantment. ( )
  NadineC.Keels | Jun 17, 2022 |
I had two very different reactions to this book.

First, while reading it, I loved it. Great writing; whimsical humour; lovely descriptions; strong character development.

A day or so after reading it, I became disillusioned -- as if, like the characters, I had returned from my enchanted time in Italy to my everyday life. The broader, basic issues that plagued the two married couples were never addressed, and I can't see how things will be truly changed when they get home. I fear the women have not transformed, but merely decided to accept their roles in life as wives. Even Lady Caroline seems poised to give up her fierce independence!

Marriage is not a solution to all of life's problems. But, then again, the book was written in 1922 so I should calm down a bit. Women had far fewer options then. ( )
  LynnB | May 3, 2022 |
A discrete advertisement in The Times, addressed to "those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine," is the prelude to a revelatory month for four very different women. High above a bay on the Italian Riviera stands the medieval castle San Salvatore. Beckoned to this haven are Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Fisher, and Lady Caroline Dester, each quietly craving a respite. Lulled by the gentle spirit of the Mediterranean, they gradually shed their public skins, discovering a harmony each of them has longed for but none has ever known. First published in 1922, this captivating novel is imbued with the descriptive power and lighthearted irreverence for which Elizabeth von Arnim is renowned

Published in 1922, this book starts with Mrs Wilkins seeing an advert for a castle to rent in Italy posted on the front of the times. Married to a solicitor, with a small nestegg of £90 and looking at the rain outside she wonders if she could ever spend money in this way
After reading the advert in her local club, she spots Mrs Arbuthnot, who goes to the same church as Wilkins but the two women have never talked. Both women are married and both have different reasons to disappear from their husbands – Wilkins because she fears she has become a non-entity and that her husband doesnt even notice she exists. Mrs Arbuthnot because she realises that she and her husband have grown apart – him to concentrate on writing his books, her to work on the things that fill her time as he keeps himself away from the marital home

They agree to take the castle, and search for two other women to share the expenses with.

Lady Caroline, young, beautiful, wanting to be left alone but realises that ultimately whilst very busy her life is essentially empty

If no one an San salvia tore had ever heard of her, if for a whole month she could shed herself, get right away from everything connected with herself, be allowed to forget the clinging and the clogging and al the noise, why, perhaps, she might make something of herself after all. She might think; really clear up her mind; really come to some conclusion

Mrs Fisher, the oldest, stuck in the past where the people of the day can never match the famous people who she knew when a child as they were always more intelligent, interesting, better mannered or more dominant. In turn she has turned into a bitter old woman who thinks everyone goes against her on purpose

The four women arrive at the castle at the beginning of April and the place, surrounded by all the lovely flowers and flora, soon begin to shed their previous selves, some quicker than others. Very quickly Mrs Wilkins (Lottie) decides to invite her husband along. He does turn up, and is stunned at the change he has found in his wife. Because of his job as a solicitor, who needs more women clients, he is solicitous towards all the other women in the house too.

Mrs Arbuthnot (Rose) is more reticent to invite her husband, but finally she does. However, he arrives at the castle, not looking for his wife, but looking for Lady Caroline, with whom he has become infatuated with whilst in London. However, in seeing his wife changed so much for the better, he realises his mistake and returns to the marital house.

Mrs Arbuthnot realises: Why had she not been attractive sooner? Why the sudden flowering?

He little realises the competition he had from Mr Briggs, the owner of the castle, who has been briefly infatuated with Rose and come to pay a visit. Unfortunately, Rose is almost immediately eclipsed with the arrival of Caroline into the room, which distracts Briggs. Briggs in the mean time has melted the icy heart of Mrs Fisher, who realises she was stuck in the past with the dead and needed live young people around her to bring her out of herself

So ultimately, everyone gets to be where they should be, helped by good weather, good food, a little absence from each other and the benefit of a little solitude. Everyone is so middle classed British, stuck in that weird bit between the wars where people are still feeling the impact of the Great War, but haven’t really lost the Victorian Class system yet
( )
  nordie | Apr 18, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arnim, Elizabeth vonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Balacco, LuisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Vere White, TerenceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Desroussilles, François DupuigrenetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dormagen, AdelheidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunant, SarahIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garciá Ríos, BeatrizTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, B. J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, Elizabeth JaneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewin, AngieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McFarlane, DebraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prądzyńska, JoannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rutten, KathleenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schine, CathleenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Terziani, SabinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vickers, SalleyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It began in a Woman's Club in London on a February afternoon,—an uncomfortable club, and a miserable afternoon—when Mrs. Wilkins, who had come down from Hampstead to shop and had lunched at her club, took up The Times from the table in the smoking-room, and running her listless eye down the Agony Column saw this: To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.
Quotations
It was just possible that she ought to go straight into the category Hysteria, which was often only the antechamber to Lunacy, but Mrs. Arbuthnot had learned not to hurry people into their final categories, having on more than one occasion discovered with dismay that she had made a mistake; and how difficult it had been to get them out again, and how crushed she had been with the most terrible remorse.
After those early painful attempts to hold him up to the point from which they had hand in hand so splendidly started, attempts in which she herself had got terribly hurt and the Frederick she supposed she had married was mangled out of recognition, she hung him up finally by her bedside as the chief subject of her prayers, and left him, except for those, entirely to God.
Wonderful that at home she should have been so good, so terribly good, and merely felt tormented. Twinges of every sort had there been her portion; aches, hurts, discouragements, and she the whole time being steadily unselfish.
She did not consciously think this, for she was having a violent reaction against beautiful clothes and the slavery they impose on one, her experience being that the instant one had got them they took one in hand and gave one no peace till they had been everywhere and been seen by everybody. You didn't take your clothes to parties; they took you. It was quite a mistake to think that a woman, a really well-dressed woman, wore out her clothes; it was the clothes that wore out the woman - dragging her about at all hours of the day and night.
Worse than jokes in the morning did she hate the idea of husbands. And everybody was always trying to press them on her - all her relations, all her friends, all the evening papers. After all, she could only marry one, anyhow; but you would think from the way everybody talked, and especially those persons who wanted to be husbands, that she could marry at least a dozen.
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This is the main work for The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim. Please do not combine with any adaptation (e.g., film adaptation), abridgement, etc.
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A discreet advertisement in 'The Times', addressed to 'Those who Apppreciate Wisteria and Sunshine...' is the impetus for a revelatory month for four very different women. High above the bay on the Italian Riviera stands San Salvatore, a mediaeval castle. Beckoned to this haven are Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs Arbuthnot, Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester, each quietly craving a respite. Lulled by the Mediterranean spirit, they gradually shed their skins and discover a harmony each of them has longed for but never known. First published in 1922 and reminscient of 'Elizabeth and her German Garden', this delightful novel is imbued with the descriptive power and light-hearted irreverence for which Elizabeth von Arnin is renowned.

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From the back cover: "Colour, fragrance, light, sea; instead of Shaftesbury Avenue, and the wet omnibuses, and the fish department at Shoolbread's ... and dinner, and to-morrow the same and the day after the same and always the same."
A discreet advertisement in The Times, address to "those who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine ...", is the prelude to a revolutionary month for four very different women. High above a bay on the Italian Riviera stands San Salvatore, a medieval castle. Beckoned to this haven are Mrs Wilkins, Mrs Arbuthnot, Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester, each quietly craving a respite. Lulled by the mediterranean spring, the violet mountains and sweet-scented flowers, they gradually shed their public skins and discover a harmony each of them has longed for but none has known. First published in 1922, reminiscent of Elizabeth and Her German Garden, this delightful novel is imbued with the descriptive power and lighthearted irreverence for which Elizabeth von Arnim was so popular.
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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590172256, 1590174313

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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