The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April, published in 1922, was written by the Australian-born British novelist, Elizabeth von Arnim (1866-1941). She left Sydney as a young child, moved to London and then to Europe, and never returned to Australia.

The delicate and delicious fragrance of the freesias came in through the door and floated round Mrs. Wilkins’s enraptured nostrils. Freesias in London were quite beyond her. Occasionally she went into a shop and asked what they cost, so as just to have an excuse for lifting up a bunch and smelling them, well knowing that it was something awful like a shilling for about three flowers. Here they were everywhere— bursting out of every corner and carpeting the rose beds. Imagine it— having freesias to pick in armfuls if you wanted to, and with glorious sunshine flooding the room, and in your summer frock, and its being only the first of April!

The Enchanted April begins in London where Lottie Wilkins, a young married woman neglected and belittled by her husband begins a conversation with Rose Arbuthnot, a woman she only knew by sight in their woman’s club. Rose was also in an unhappy marriage, not that she ever complained. Both women see a small Italian castle advertised in The Times and Lottie screws up her courage to approach Rose to suggest they take it for a month.

Neither of them being big spenders, they decide to find two other ladies to come as well but when all four of them arrive at their destination, personalities clash and the holiday has all the makings of a great disappointment.

However, the magic of the place works itself into the lives and hearts of all four and by the end of the four weeks of April major changes have taken place. ‘Beauty made you love, and love made you beautiful…’

I’d describe this story as a sort of modern fairytale. At first I thought the story was going to involve marriage break-ups and everyone would go off and give up on their marriage partners but von Arnim crafted a lovely turn around in each woman’s life. The author’s descriptive writing is beautiful, especially when describing flowers and she made Italy very enticing, especially for an April holiday! This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it doesn’t surprise me that her first book was titled, Elizabeth and Her German Garden and that in real life she created a wonderful garden at her home in France.

How passionately she longed to be important to somebody again…not important as an asset in an organization, but privately important – just to one other person, quite privately, nobody else to know or notice. It didn’t seem much to ask in a world so crowded with people, just to have one of them, only one out of all the millions, to oneself. Somebody who needed one, who thought of one, who was eager to come to one – oh, oh how dreadfully one wanted to be precious!

A short biography of the author is here.

Linking up with Reading Europe 2021 @ Rose City Reader – Italy

11 thoughts on “The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

  1. Pingback: The Classics Club: A New List | journey & destination

    • Elizabeth Goudge has written quite a bit about married couples staying together after struggling through difficult circumstances. The Scent of Water and The Damerosehay trilogy are some that come to mind.
      I think a couple of my comments went astray on your blog. They registered as in ‘comment moderation’ but didn’t appear??

      Like

  2. This is the only book I’ve read from von Arnim and I loved it too. It is really like a fairy tale for adults and absolutely, it also made me want to visit Italy in the spring! I concur with Lark that the movie is good (and faithful).

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