The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin
Narrator: Eleanor Bron
Published by Audible Studios on February 1, 2013 (first published January 1, 1922)
Source: Audible Plus
Genres: Classic, Fiction
Length: 8 hrs 9 mins
Pages: 232
Format: Audiobook
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Audible
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four-half-stars

A discreet 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.

The Enchanted April is a charming novel, light and breezy and sweet. It’s about love and life and being oneself. It’s funny and perceptive. The writing is descriptive and witty.

Four women, more or less strangers, are escaping dreary London and their dreary lives to spend April in a castle in Italy. They are each unhappy and lonely in their own way, dissatisfied with their lives. Lottie and Rose are in unhappy marriages. Lady Caroline is tired of being fawned over and surrounded by people clamoring for her attention. Mrs. Fisher is a grumpy older woman, a widow who relies on a cane. She, by the way, has some of the funniest moments in the book. Then San Salvatore works its magic on them, first one then more slowly the others. They come out of their shells and relax. They begin to realize what is actually important. They enjoy the beauty around them and in general become more happy, more loving people.

Lottie and Rose decide they need to invite their husband to join them. This could have led to disaster. Neither husband is exactly a nice guy- one is actually there to see Caroline not his own wife. The man they are renting the castle from also shows up. But it all works out. There is nothing spectacular, no tense drama, no twisting plot lines. It’s just a pleasant book, maybe a little too sweet, but a good reminder that “classics” are rarely dull, that travel can change your mindset, that friendships are precious, and that we all need a bit of self-care.

About Elizabeth von Armin

Elizabeth von Arnim (31 August 1866 – 9 February 1941), an English novelist born Mary Annette Beauchamp in Australia, married a German aristocrat and her earliest works are set in Germany. Her first marriage made her Countess von Arnim-Schlagenthin and her second Elizabeth Russell, Countess Russell. After her first husband’s death, she had a three-year affair with the writer H. G. Wells, then later married Frank Russell, elder brother of the Nobel prize-winner and philosopher Bertrand Russell. They seperated in 1919. She was a cousin of the New Zealand-born writer Katherine Mansfield. Though known in early life as May, her first book introduced her to readers as Elizabeth, which she eventually became to friends and finally to family. Her writings are ascribed to Elizabeth von Arnim. She used the pseudonym Alice Cholmondeley only for a novel, Christine, published in 1917.

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