Review of ‘The Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth von Arnim

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be ‘delightful’. Gently humorous and charming, it has a magic which can’t fail to lift one’s spirits.

The story is about four very different women who rent a house together in Italy for a month. On a gloomy day in London, an advert in the newspaper attracts the timid and eccentric Mrs Wilkins, who wants to get away from her overbearing and humourless husband. Mrs Arbuthnot, kind and religious, is persuaded to come along. She only wishes her own husband cared enough to miss her. Then they advertise for two more women to share the cost of renting. Elderly, superior Mrs Fisher is not interested in anything besides nuts and the old literary greats. Beautiful young Lady Caroline, meanwhile, is keen to escape all of her tiresome admirers. The dynamics between these characters are one of the most enjoyable aspects of the novel.

There isn’t much of a plot beyond this, but I find there’s a hint of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with its dreamy atmosphere, magic and the promise of couples being reunited. The setting is key to the novel, as one by one the characters give in to the happiness wrought by the sunshine, blue skies, quiet and masses of flowers. I’m giving the flowers an extra mention because every chapter is bursting with them. Reading this book is like going on a holiday where there is nothing to do but stroll in colourful flower gardens while waiting for your next meal. The overall content is light, but there are some issues touched upon such as the estrangement between husbands and wives, loneliness and judging by appearances.

A recommended classic read, especially in April. This is a re-read.

First published in 1922. This is the 1986 Virago edition.

6 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth von Arnim”

  1. Delightful is the perfect word to describe this novel. I felt as if I’d had a holiday in Italy myself after reading The Enchanted April and still laugh when I think about Mrs W’s husband in the bath!

  2. Yes it feels like a holiday – even more so now that no one is going on holiday for real!

  3. Haven’t heard of this book before! Great review, NS! Whenever I come across names of flowers in books I always have to look them up 😅 what made you reread this?

    1. I hadn’t heard of it either, until I found it in a charity shop and thought it looked good! Generally I am quite good with flower names as I used to read a lot of identification guides when I was little. I decided to re-read this because it was April (LOL), I needed something a bit more lighthearted and also I’m re-reading more of the books on my shelf.

Leave a Reply