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Review: The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Pages: 361

Original date of publication: 1922

My edition: 1993 (Virago)

Why I decided to read: I participated in All Viragos All August

How I acquired my copy: Ebay, May 2010

In The Enchanted April, three Englishwomen—strangers to one another—impulsively decide to rent a medieval house in Italy after seeing an ad in a newspaper addressed to “those who appreciate wistaria and sunshine.” There are Mrs. Wilkins, a housewife wanting a break from the rainy monotony of London; Mrs. Arbuthnot; Lady Caroline Dester, young and fickle; and Mrs. Fisher, older than the rest but also in need of a break.

Elizabeth Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy, and the castle’s gardens, are superb; you actually feel as though you’re in Italy with the women as they enjoy their holiday. But the women never seem to lave San Salvatore, and so the action of the novel seems a bit stagnant at times; I felt while reading this that the characters were running around in circles. You get lots of descriptions of the gardens around San Salvatore (Von Arnim was an avid gardener), and the food that they eat; it made me want to hop on a plane and go to Italy myself! Reading this book is a little like taking a vacation, too; there’s a very surreal, magical feeling to the book, almost as though you’re walking on air (a weird way to describe a book, but that’s what I felt when reading!). It’s one of those books that are perfect for reading on vacation.

The story started off really well. However, the plot gets lost a little bit towards the middle, as the husbands and potential lovers begin arriving. The characters changed far too much, too soon but ultimately, I really believed in their transformations. It seems as though San Salvatore has an effect on everyone, whether or not they want it to. The author also rushes a little bit at the end to tie things up, sometimes not realistically. But I did love the author’s writing style, and I’m looking forward to tracking down more novels by her.


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