‘The Enchanted April’ brings together four very different women looking to escape dreary London for the sunshine. Each independently take up the offer of an advertisement in the Times newspaper.

‘To those who appreciate Wisteria and sunshine. Small medieval castle to be let for the month of April’.

Readability

★★★★★★★★✰✰

Talkability

★★★★★★★★✰✰

Den scores

★★★★★★★✰✰✰

THE ENCHANTED APRIL

By Elizabeth Von Arnim

261 pages

Recommended by a Den subscriber, who could not be enticed by this charming armchair read? A Penguin Vintage Classic (1922), ‘The Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth Von Arnim, takes us to the Italian Riviera in spring time. A natural Wild Card choice for now.

Set between the wars, ‘The Enchanted April’ brings together four very different women looking to escape dreary London for the sunshine. Each independently take up the offer of an advertisement in The Times newspaper.

‘To those who appreciate Wisteria and sunshine. Small medieval castle to be let for the month of April’.

In the first half of the novel we learn the motives of the women who are attracted to the San Salvatore retreat. Lotty and Rose are fleeing their husbands, spending their secret nest eggs to escape their London lives. Meanwhile the widowed and beautiful Lady Caroline is seeking anonymity away from her social circles and awkward Mrs Fisher it transpires is more than ‘merely a woman with an old stick’.

A short charming novel with comic overtones, this is definitely a read for one sitting. As well as being transported to a beautiful place, the characters blossom in the warmth of the Italian spring with quite unexpected changes. There is a lot of emphasis on ‘getting away’ (something we can all relate to in 2021) but it is the eventual arrival at San Salvatore, as well as the introduction of additional guests that provides a pace changer in this novel. Suddenly the story begins to get interesting.

Don’t expect lots of plots and twists. This is a gentle tale from a post war era when holidaying was considered a novelty and travel a luxury. But for us lockdowners it’s an opportunity to appreciate the women’s stories as they discover their better selves and the freedoms of simple pleasures, whether it be being alone, sharing company with strangers or rekindling relationships with their husbands.

Although it appeared dated for many in the Den (and sometimes irrelevant to our lives today), the novel unleashed plenty of discussion points around women’s role in society - then and now.

Von Arnim’s detailed depiction of the setting and the beautiful grounds in spring time makes this a delightful read. You might also want to seek out the Oscar-nominated film adaptation (1991) starring Miranda Richardson and Josie Lawrence.

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