The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Enchanted April is an enchanting book!
Within the first couple of paragraphs I knew it was the book for me! I am still in Lockdown and I needed something that would help me escape the world’s frightening realities. & mostly set in one of my favourite countries – what could be better?
Answer – not much!
A chance spotting of an advertisement leads to two virtual strangers, Lottie & Rose, deciding to rent an Italian castle together & have a month’s escape from their dull, unhappy lives. The rent proves to be much more than they had envisaged, so they advertise and find two other ladies, the waspish, selfish Mrs Fisher and the self absorbed Lady Caroline. in different ways the ladies are transformed by their experiences and the beauty that they are living amongst. Von Arnim herself was supposed to be a very keen gardener and her love of plants shows in every word.
All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkles in full flower, and she could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face. It was wisteria. Wisteria and sunshine . . . she remembered the advertisement. Here indeed were both in profusion. The wisteria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour. The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees, and cherry-trees. The cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossom–lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show. And beneath these trees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender, and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea. Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers….
I knocked of half a ★ because I wasn’t totally convinced by the resolution of some of storylines, but if you want to remember Italy in happier times or simply want an escape from grim reality, this could be the book for you!