The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

December 23, 2013

enchanted april Plot summary (from the publisher): Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel tells the story of four dissimilar women in 1920s England who leave their damp and rainy environs to go on a holiday to a secluded coastal castle in Italy. Mrs Arbuthnot and Mrs Wilkins, who belong to the same ladies’ club but have never spoken, become acquainted after reading a newspaper advertisement for a ‘small mediaeval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April’.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I really loved von Arnim’s writing style. The words and phrases she used were delightful and made the novel feel like a throwback to Henry James or something, and made the story that much more authentic (given the period in which it was set).
  • I enjoyed how the friendships developed, especially between Mrs. Fisher & Lottie and Scrap & Lottie. Mrs. Fisher went from viewing Lottie as someone who needed to be “curbed” to a true friend/daughter figure, while Scrap went from seeing Lottie as a potentially annoying hanger-on (“grabber”) to someone whose company she genuinely enjoyed.
  • Although the ending was a little too pat, I did like that everyone walked away from San Salvatore much happier and self-aware than when they arrived.

Disliked:

  • The novel got off to a rather slow start. It took a long time for the women to actually arrive at the castle, and then once they were there, they spent too much time apart. I would have preferred to have more scenes that showed their relationships were developing.
  • I didn’t like that Rose Arbuthnot and her husband Frederick ended up together. I know I just said I approved of everyone’s happy ending, but in this case I thought Frederick got off scot-free. After all, he journeyed all the way to Italy to see Scrap, not his wife, and was practically throwing himself at the other woman. For Rose not to notice this and for Frederick to just get a clean slate seemed highly unfair. I wanted Rose to be happy, but wish the happiness would have been the result of freeing herself from Frederick instead of reconciling with him.
  • The plot as a whole was a bit predictable. Nothing much happened, and what little action or plot/character development there was could be seen coming from a mile away.

Rating:

I found The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin to be a very charming novel. I really enjoyed the writing style, which made me chuckle aloud in more than a few places, and thought the happily-ever-after aspect of the book provided a nice change of pace from my usual fare. Though not perfect, this is certainly a work worth reading. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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