Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.


The Enchanted April (1922)

by Elizabeth von Arnim

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,8821235,017 (4.05)1 / 611
Something long dormant in the reluctant hearts of two downcast London women sparks to life... When four women leave their drab lives behind to go on holiday in Italy, their lives are changed forever by the Mediterranean. Mrs. Arbuthnot and Mrs. Wilkins, while part of the same ladies' club, have never spoken. Lady Caroline Dester and the elderly Mrs. Fisher join their holiday so as to mitigate expenses. As these women come together and learn more about themselves than they ever thought possible, they reveal their true personalities and the backdrops of their lives that tend to hinder them. Inspired by the author's own month-long trip to the Italian Riviera, this novel is noted as her most widely-read work.… (more)
  1. 110
    Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (cmbohn)
  2. 70
    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.
  3. 70
    A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (SylviaC)
  4. 60
    Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim (Booksloth)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

» See also 611 mentions

English (117)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (122)
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
Such a lovely book. I am a fan of Elizabeth, and this is the second time I've read "April." I'm a fair deal older than the first time I read it, so I saw the story with a different perspective this time. I enjoyed the passages describing the house and the garden and the scenery as much, if not more, as the development of the characters. My cynical self gave an eye roll as each person's story reached a happy ending, but my I-want-to-believe self rolled with the punches, choosing to believe that a beautiful place can make one's life more beautiful. ( )
  ReadMeAnother | Apr 17, 2024 |
This one grabbed me on the very first day with its beauty and clever turns of phrasing. The characters each existed very separately from all the others, and their journey towards the conclusion makes almost perfect sense. What a wonderful book to keep company with for a few days! ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Mar 5, 2024 |
A Case of Stendhal’s Syndrome?

Set in the 1920s , The Enchanted April is a story of four English women’s vacation in a castle on the Italian Riviera and the effect the beauty of the castle, the vistas, and more especially its gardens have on them.

One of the women, a Mrs Wilkins is clearly overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and has a spiritual transformation, similar to that of George Harrison when he “found himself” in India in the mid sixties.

So sure is Ms Wilkins that all you need is love, that she telegrams her husband who she previously feared and felt was cold, asking him to join her. Surely he too would feel the love. Mrs Wilkins’ bliss is contagious, so much so that she persuades her friend Mrs Arbuthnot to do the same.

The other members of the group, Lady Caroline Dester and Mrs Fisher who are both “spinsters”, appear less affected, though Lady Caroline becomes more self-aware. She is more able to come to terms with her own beauty, which has so far been a hindrance in her young life. Mrs Fisher, who is considered ancient at 65 and who is still stuck in the Victorian era remains somewhat immune, though she occasionally has feelings she can’t quite work out.

As for the two husbands, von Arnim has little time for the men. Mr Wilkins becomes warmer toward his wife as his feelings for the female sex are rekindled by the beauty of Lady Caroline if not the garden. And Mr Arbuthnott sees that Mrs Arbuthnott has a sex appeal that he has been unaware of for many a year.

Which leave the main character in the book, the garden. As an avid gardner myself, I delighted in the long paragraphs describing in exquisite detail, the different flowers and shrubs, and their placement around the castle, and in some cases around the individual women when they act as shields allowing the individual women to revel in their solitudes.

The writing is crisp and humorous. The class distinctions separate Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester from the Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, the former clearly seeing the other women as “below them”. But what the women have in common is that they are not men.

The men in the novel appear as necessary appendages. Accessories. Accessories that are generally found wanting.

I came saw from the book intrigued by the author. I wanted to find out more, and did.

I’m glad that I discovered von Arnim. I thoroughly enjoyed The Enchanted April and rated it a deserving 4. ( )
  kjuliff | Feb 4, 2024 |
Two women who have drifted apart from their husbands answer an advert to spend April in an Italian castle. They recruit a frosty old dame and a beautiful but cold noblewoman to join them, to share the costs. Initially there is some friction and social conflict between the four. However the beauty of the castle and its endless flowers transforms and heals their hearts. ( )
  questbird | Jan 10, 2024 |
Set post WW1, this is one book in that category of books of women travelling, quite often to Italy, to discover themselves and those around them. I am thinking of A Room with a View by EM Forster, Still Life by Sarah Winman or even the film Tea with Mussolini although they are expats.

Mrs Wilkins sees an advert to rent a castle in Italy for the month of April and longs to go. She has a small nest egg she could use but it is really too expensive until she sees Mrs Arbuthnott dreaming over the same advert. Both have reasons to escape, their marriages not working too well, and so agree to rent it. To reduce costs they then advertise for two more women who would like to go, it sleeps eight, and find them. Lady Caroline Dester who wants to escape from her beauty and being stared at and Mrs Fisher who is deemed to be ancient at 65 with a walking stick and stuck in the past.

Italy works its magic, the weather, the flowers and the castle itself and changes happen. First Mrs Wilkins is opened to love and invites her husband out, having gone to escape him, and their relationship is transformed although he does still pinch her earlobe as a form of endearment. And, by the third week Mrs Fisher feels as if she is 'sprouting' again, Mrs Arbuthnott has her husband with her and the romance is re-ignited, even if he had gone out chasing after Lady Dester, and Lady Dester thinks that there might be something in Mr Briggs who owns the castle.

It was the perfect book to read whilst recovering from a bout of COVID, not taxing but warm and transforming. A book of manners and worry all undone by the weather and vistas in San Salvatore.

All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her. The sea lay asleep in it, hardly stirring. Across the bay the lovely mountains, exquisitely different in color, were asleep too in the light; and underneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slope from which the wall of castle rose up, was a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose-colors of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword.

The writing is wonderful. I love the way von Arnim compares the now deceased Mr Fisher to macaroni (would we say spaghetti nowadays?).

Mrs. Fisher had never cared for macaroni, especially not this long, worm-shaped variety. She found it difficult to eat - slippery, wriggling off her fork, making her look, she felt, undignified when, having got it as she supposed into her mouth, ends of it yet hung out. Always, too, when she ate it she was reminded of Mr. Fisher. He had during their married life behaved very much like macaroni. He had slipped, he had wriggled, he had made her feel undignified, and when at last she had got him safe, as she thought, there had invariably been little bits of him that still, as it were, hung out.

Von Arnim is a great observer of people and the small things that make them up, how communications can be misread, selfishness or being too selfless (is that selfish?). She describes very well the fact that the house does not have one leader - she who decides what will be eaten and when - but allows the women to find their way in the group. Her description of the effect of female beauty on men is very detailed and her character of Caroline Dester is particularly well-drawn for nowadays. A beautiful young woman who is fed up with being 'ogled' at and 'grabbed' who has come out to Italy to get away from that and to try and 'think'.

A wonderfully enchanting and recuperative read. ( )
  allthegoodbooks | Nov 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» 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
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
First words
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.
It was just possible that she [Mrs Wilkisn] 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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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.
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Something long dormant in the reluctant hearts of two downcast London women sparks to life... When four women leave their drab lives behind to go on holiday in Italy, their lives are changed forever by the Mediterranean. Mrs. Arbuthnot and Mrs. Wilkins, while part of the same ladies' club, have never spoken. Lady Caroline Dester and the elderly Mrs. Fisher join their holiday so as to mitigate expenses. As these women come together and learn more about themselves than they ever thought possible, they reveal their true personalities and the backdrops of their lives that tend to hinder them. Inspired by the author's own month-long trip to the Italian Riviera, this novel is noted as her most widely-read work.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
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.
Haiku summary

Current Discussions


Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (4.05)
1 5
1.5 1
2 24
2.5 10
3 104
3.5 51
4 264
4.5 46
5 224

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 208,899,220 books! | Top bar: Always visible