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"The Enchanted April" by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

First published in 1922, The Enchanted April was a best-seller in both England and the United States. The plot centers around four women, all strangers, who escape the dismal British weather for a month-long retreat at San Salvatore, an Italian villa. Once there, the company of the other women along with the "wisteria and sunshine" bring each character to realize then overcome a central flaw in her life. Lotty has her nervous tendencies; Rose always puts her religious obligations before everything else; Mrs Fisher can't reconcile her contemporary life with the past she so idolizes; and the beautiful Lady Caroline can't figure out why everyone around her is so dreadfully dull.

Like von Arnim's first novel, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, the prose is light and humorous. The first chapter when Lotty and Rose arrive in Italy is especially witty. Neither knows a word a Italian aside from the oft repeated "San Salvatore?", and their journey from the train station to the villa is fraught with visions of their actually being abducted and taken to a strange and secluded location by unknown men.

They and their two companions arrive safely, however, and their arrival signals the beginning of a unique path to self-discovery for each woman. Von Arnim has a way of giving each character an attractive vibrancy that engages one's sympathy, no matter how different that character may be from oneself. A good example is that of Lady Caroline whose apathy and blinding beauty make her hard to relate to at first. But she grows into perhaps the most interesting character in the novel. Lady Caroline changes from a boring beauty to a humble and compassionate friend; where at the beginning her central characteristic is her beauty, this changes by the end to an attractive intelligence that overshadows her appearance.

The Enchanted April is a beautiful, fragrant read. It is a romance, but not sappy, and very true to life. I look forward to reading more of von Arnim's work.


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