Book review: Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
This is another ‘spell for refreshment of the spirit’. The story is set in the 1920s and is about two married and subdued women who suddenly decide to run away from their husbands and the dreary English environment, and rent a castle on the Italian coast, along with two other complete strangers. The mismatched women spend a life-changing month in the midst of perfumed flowers, clear sunshine, expansive sea views and perplexed Italian servants. Written with insight, a passionate love of Italy and deft humour (I particularly loved the subtle manoeuvres between Rose and Mrs Fisher about who will be the ‘hostess’), the plot unfolds to a satisfying ending as their families and husbands and friends are also drawn into the magic of the enchantment.
Lotty dives into the beauty and is instantly transformed, but her co-conspirator Rose struggles with guilt. She has tried so hard to be good and to find her joy and purpose in helping the poor. Can it be right to walk away, to spend money on oneself and to simply enjoy beauty? Can scenery and setting be redemptive? Is it selfish to go on holiday? If you’ve ever struggled with these questions, if you’ve ever asked what heaven might be like, if you’ve ever wondered could it be possible to become a person who can effortlessly and blissfully give love, you may find some answers in this book. Or you may feel that the redemption offered is too glib and simple. Or you may be inspired to visit the Italian coast yourself and try to find your own enchantment.
As I write this, we are on holiday in Sorrento, in a stunning villa overlooking the bay of Naples. The venue was chosen because of this book. I have not yet found the scented flowers and the beautiful sea, but I hope to. My family will tell you if I am transformed….