Monday, May 7, 2012

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim is the novel that inspired the movie by the same name.  One winter day in England, a Lotty Wilkins, a married woman, sees an advertisement in a newspaper for a one month lease on a medieval castle in Italy.  She soon notices Rose Arbuthnot, a devout Christian wife, daydreaming over the same notice in the paper and approaches her, suggests that they should at least look into it, and then she introduces herself to this woman who is only recognizable in passing.  The two advertise for two more women to join them and Lady Caroline, a young socialite, and the elderly Mrs. Fisher become the third and fourth to the party that soon finds themselves in Italy in April.

I read this novel because I have always found the movie delightful.  It is reminiscent of Jane Austen but instead of having four young sisters eager for marriage, we have two discontentedly married women, a young woman aching to get away from flirtation, and an older widow happy to be living alone.  All four are seeking a change but none of them knows that they will find precisely what they didn’t know they needed while vacationing in this castle.

The novel surprised me because there is more psychological depth to the characters than I expected.  The movie is charming and the change in the characters never feels false but upon reading the novel my appreciation for each of the four characters, for who they are and how they evolve, grew tremendously.  I could relate to aspects of all four women.  Lotty’s innocent confidence, Rose’s frustration with her life, Lady Caroline’s ennui and repressed grief, and even Mrs. Fisher’s loneliness. 

I am not suggesting that the novel is provocative.  The purple prose is suited to the purpose of this novel but will probably annoy some readers.  If you love Austen and Lucy Maud Montgomery then you will simply adore this novel.  If you love the movie, this novel will prove to be as enchanting as the movie.  Truly. 

Please Note:  I do not recommend the kindle edition, which is the one I read.  It is very poorly edited, with letters missing from words and misspellings throughout.  Though seems to be interchangeable with through and thought.  I have not read another version but would assume any other version would be better edited than this one.   

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