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The Caravaners by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Caravaners (1909)

by Elizabeth von Arnim

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170399,591 (3.28)54

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If you want to see me at my grumpiest, send me on a camping holiday. This includes camper vans. So when a so-called friend convinced Edelgard and her husband Otto to go on holiday in England using rented caravans, I knew they were in for some unpleasant surprises. And Otto’s stuffy upper-crust breeding, staunch German classist attitudes, and military career were not going to help them one bit.

The Caravaners is written from Otto’s point of view, with an eye toward reading his holiday memoir later, for a gathering of friends. Elizabeth von Arnim satirizes him (and, well, probably all Germans) mercilessly. He starts out simply naive about this type of holiday, but things go from bad to worse as he interacts with the others in his party. Otto objects to pitching in with the many chores required to maintain their campsites. He objects to the rain (seriously?!), and looks down on his wife who is trying to make the best of things. Worse still, he believes he is getting on famously with the others. It is increasingly obvious to the reader that they are avoiding Otto at all costs while embracing his wife Edelgard. It’s just a matter of time before Otto gets his comeuppance, and it plays out beautifully.

Reading this book made me laugh out loud, both at the situations the party found themselves in, and Otto’s over the top hubris. The experience was similar to reading The Diary of a Provincial Lady but much more biting. And quite a lot of fun. ( )
1 vote lauralkeet | Apr 20, 2017 |
This is a story of a married, aristocratic German couple. The Baron is the narrator of his caravaning holiday which he participates in rather than shares with among others, his wife Edelgard and two other couples. Von Arnim allows his didactic manner and pedantic patriarchial opinions to draw the reader into imagining a holiday very different from the one he experiences. The reader reaching conclusions above and beyond anything imaginable by the Baron himself .

It is true that there is much of von Arnim's gentle wit and humour on offer, but a whole story devoted to satirising the Baron was too much for me. ( )
3 vote Louise_SDY | Apr 11, 2008 |
This story is written from the perspective of Baron Ottringel, a Prussian military officer, who goes on holiday to England with his wife, Edelgard. To save money, they decide to caravan--the early-20th-century version of an RV trip. They go with another lady from their town whom the Baron admires greatly, her sister and English brother-in-law, and four other English people. The Baron has very decided ideas about life a(nd about women and the English in particular), and he shares them freely both with the reader and his traveling companions. Essentially, he thinks women should be seen and not heard. Under the influence of the other travelers, his wife pays less and less attention to his demands. The others mock him, but he doesn't realize it. Soon, they begin to leave every time he turns up, which he notices but doesn't understand.

The book is absolutely hilarious. Sometimes, in a book in which a main character is supposed to be annoying and unlikeable, the character becomes so much so that the reader is too annoyed to keep reading. Von Arnim avoids this by making the Baron more ridiculous than annoying. He makes statements like, "I could only conclude that, pasty and loosely put together as they outwardly were, they must be of a very great secret leatheriness" (speaking of two of his traveling companions). The writing is clever, and the other characters have such a realistic and natural reaction to the Baron that it makes the story seem believable, even though he is completely over-the-top. ( )
4 vote carlym | Jan 20, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth von Arnimprimary authorall editionscalculated
Saunders, KateIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In June this summer there were a few fine days, and we supposed the summer had really come at last.
"One of the cleverest and most amusing stories of the year," declared Punch, when The Caravaners was published in 1909. (Introduction)
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Book description
"Dear husband", she said, actually imitating me, "I know what you are going to say. I always know what you are going to say. I know all the things you ever can or ever do say." She paused for a moment, and then added in a firm voice, looking me straight in the eyes, "By heart."
For the Major and his wife Edelgard, the idea of a caravanning holiday in Southern England seems perfect. As they begin their leisurely progress through its green and verdant countryside, the holiday spirit sets in. But England presents more than just a contrast of scenery to this German couple - amongst the company of their English companions Edelgard seems to undergo a change of temperament, revealing herself to be far less biddable than the upright Major had believed. The blossoming of the hedgerows is one thing, but the blossoming of his wife is quite another ...
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