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"To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small Mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the Month of April. Necessary Servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times."

So reads the ad that sends four Englishwomen on a month-long vacation to an Italian villa (maybe in Portofino, where the author had stayed?). Two are married women whose marriages have lost their spark, one an elderly widow and one a great beauty who everyone pampers. Mrs. Wilkins is constantly overborn by her ambitious husband. Mrs Arbuthnot drowns herself in charitable church work, to compensate for her guilt that her husband makes a living writing biographies of history's great mistresses. Mrs. Fisher leans heavily on her walking stick but even more heavily on the impossibility of modern life measuring up to the pleasures of her father's salon, which was peopled by all the great authors of the Victorian Era. Thomas Carlyle is more central to her life than any living being and she takes it out on all and sundry. And Lady Caroline feels smothered by the attention her beauty brings. Though previously unknown to each other, they are all intrigued by the ad and band together to defray the cost.

Mrs. Wilkins is the first of the women to be transformed by the Italian sun. She showers everyone with love and tries to convince them that they too will experience a rebirth in their newfound "heaven". Indeed, she has developed a kind of ability to see what their futures hold and is certain they will be made happy. Mrs. Arbuthnot comes along more slowly, but realizes that her judgmentalism has driven away her spouse. Mrs. Fisher succumbs to the attention being paid, realizing she actually quite enjoys having Mrs. Wilkins kiss and care for her. And in one of the best bits of comedy in the book, Caroline realizes that she doesn't really cherish the privacy that Mrs. Wilkins affords her. She too wants to be loved. Eventually the men folk show up, including the owner of the villa and, Italy having worked its magic on them too, our lady friends return to or find romance.

An inveterate Northerner, I find objectionable the notion that sun and heat can have any salutary effect whatsoever, particularly moral and spiritual, but this is undoubtedly the chickiest lit I've ever enjoyed reading. While there is romance here, Ms von Arnim leavens it with sharp humor and savvy social observation. Her work was rediscovered once when the film version came out and again when . NYRB and others now keep this novel in print and it's worth seeking out if you're in the mood for a pleasant read.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Women Authors
Elizabeth von Arnim Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Elizabeth von Arnim
    -ENTRY: Elizabeth von Arnim (The Orlando Project)
    -ENTRY: Elizabeth von Arnim (the Literature Network)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Elizabeth von Arnim (IMDB)
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Enchanted April
    -BOOK SITE: The Enchanted April (NYRB)
    -BOOK SITE: The Enchanted April (Penguin)
    -ETEXTS: The Enchanted April (Project Gutenberg)
    -AUDIO BOOK: The Enchanted April (Librivox)
    -AUDIO BOOK: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (Audiobooks Unleashed)
    -READING GROUP GUIDE: The Enchanted April (NYRB)
    -RADIO PLAY: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (BBC Radio 4, 2015)
    -RECIPE: Novel recipes: Macaroons from The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin: Enjoying the abundance of a Tuscan holiday, I devoured Von Armin’s novel with some toothsome almond delights (Kate Young, 25 May 2017, The Guardian)
    -ENTRY: Elizabeth von Arnim (Nava Atlas, June 28, 2015, Literary Ladies Guide)
-ESSAY: Elizabeth von Arnim: The forgotten feminist who’s flowering again: Downton Abbey has given Elizabeth von Arnim’s novels a boost (Miranda Kiek, 8 November 2011 , Independent)
    -ESSAY: Cross-Currents: Elizabeth von Arnim, Max Beerbohm and George Bernard Shaw (Isobel Maddison, 22 Jun 2017, Women: A Cultural Review)
    -ESSAY: Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Pastor’s Wife: A Reassessment (Nick Turner, 22 Jun 2017, Women: A Cultural Review)
    -ESSAY: Reading Elizabeth von Arnim Today (Isobel Maddison, Juliane Römhild and Jennifer Walker)
    -ESSAY: ‘A Second Flowering’ (Isobel Maddison, Katherine Mansfield Society)
    -ESSAY: Beginning In A Garden: on Elizabeth von Arnim (Gabrielle Carey, Sydney Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Elizabeth von Arnim’s Garden Memoirs: Cultivating Feminism? (Fabienne Moine, Printemps)
    -ESSAY: Downton Abbey: Elizabeth von Arnim Returns to Life (NATE PEDERSEN, JANUARY 19, 2012, Fine Books Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Elizabeth von Arnim (Diana Hirst, 05 Jun 2015, Women: A Cultural Review)
    -ARCHIVES: Elizabeth von Arnim (Taylor and Francis Online)
    -REVIEW: of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (Madeline Miller, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Fiona Wilson, Times [uk])
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Natasha Tripney, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Robert Armitage, NY Public Library)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (From First Page to Last)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Linda's Book Bag)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Book Snob)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Albion Beatnik Bookstore)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Emily Books)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (The Worm Hole)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (The Idle Woman)
    -REVIEW: of Enchanted April (Carrie, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books)
    -REVIEW: of Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim (William the Bloody, Open Graves, Open Minds)
    -REVIEW: of Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim (Claire McAlpine)
    -REVIEW: of Elizabeth and her German Garden (The Idle Woman)
    -REVIEW: of The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen by Elizabeth von Arnim (Isobel Montgomery, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Elizabeth of the German Garden: A Literary Journey: A Biography of Elizabeth von Arnim by Jennifer Walker (The Idle Woman)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Uncommon Arrangements by Katy Roiphe (Miranda Seymour, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Only Happiness Here: In search of Elizabeth von Arnim by Gabrielle Carey (Juliane Roemhild, Australian Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Countess from Kirribilli: The mysterious and free-spirited literary sensation who beguiled the world by Joyce Morgan    -


-FILMOGRAPHY: Elizabeth von Arnim (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Mike Newell (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: The Enchanted April (1991) (IMDB)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Enchanted April (1991 film)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Enchanted April (Rotten Tomatoes)
    -FILM REVIEW ARCHIVES: The Enchanted April (Metacritic)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (James Berardinelli, Reel Views)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Michael Wilmington, LA Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Chris Hicks, Deseret News)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Owen McNally, Hartford Courant)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Entertainment Weekly)


    -ESSAY: Enchanted April: History: ON THE ADAPTATION (Matthew Barber)
    -PLAY REVIEW: The Enchanted April (Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star)
    -PLAY REVIEW: The Enchanted April (J. KELLY NESTRUCK, Globe & Mail)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: Lost No More: Loving NYRB Classics: How one publisher gives us the chance to remember forgotten classics (Dorian Stuber, September 2020, Forma)