Book Talk: The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim - a book review

I had never heard of Elizabeth von Arnim or about The Enchanted April until I read a recommendation by Barbara (Barbara's Book Obsession,) an avid bibliophile that I follow on Instagram. The Enchanted April  was one of many books that I was gifted last Christmas and, even though I was really looking forward to reading it, I decided that I should wait until April, to better enjoy the images that I was sure the book would evoke. And I was not disappointed.
Sincerely Loree: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The story takes place in the early 1920s when four very different women decide to spend a month in a medieval castle in Italy called San Salvatore that is surrounded by gardens in full bloom, and a magnificent view. Two of the women, Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Arbuthnot are middle class and live in Hampstead. The other two, the elderly Mrs. Fisher and the young and beautiful Lady Caroline Dester, are upper class and, initially very snobbish, intending to keep themselves apart from the others. The Enchanted April is simply the story of the unexpected friendship that develops between these four women because the beauty of Italy in April seems to lay a spell on them, changing them into better versions of themselves. By the end of their month-long sojourn at San Salvatore, they are happier, kinder and more at peace with the world than they have ever been.
There are no villains in this book, nothing bad or scandalous happens; a few men risk making fools of themselves but all ends well. San Salvatore is a place of enchantment and nobody that crosses its threshold remains the same; all are transformed, to a greater or lesser degree.

So why did I enjoy reading this gently-paced book so much? Because it whisked me away to another era, to life as it was one hundred years ago, when manners mattered and the most outrageous thing one could do was to bare one's shoulders at suppertime. I think that The Enchanted April is the sort of book that will offend no one. Yes, there is some classism, but considering that the book was written in 1922, it does not feel out of place. 

I don't need to tell you that Italy is able to work its magic on people during any month of the year. But Italy in April is something else altogether and von Arnim's descriptions of the gardens at San Salvatore are so detailed that I felt like I could touch and smell the flowers while I was reading. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a gentle escape to another century in the company of genteel society. I did not want to leave the world that von Arnim wrote about so well. The only slightly negative thing I have to say about this book is that there are quite a few overly-long sentences that I had to re-read, especially if I was slightly distracted. But that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of this book. I think it will be one of those that I will go back to from time to time because we all need a little enchantment in our lives every now and then.

So I will end by recommending The Enchanted April to all those in touch with their feminine side who might need to escape from the constant noise of 21st century life to the Italian Riviera of 100 years ago.

My rating: 4 ⭐
Pipistrello said...

This is on my List, Loree! EVA's earlier book "Elizabeth & her German Garden" was one of my most recent reads, and I did enjoy its lovely evocation of a past time and celebration of a woman's passion for her garden.

La Contessa said...


Debbie Nolan said...

Loree you hooked me. I am definitely going to look for this one at the library. In this day and age it is refreshing to find a book that transports us to a beautiful place in an endearing era. So glad you shared your review. Take care and hope you find something just as delightful to read in May. Hugs!

Gattina said...

I am so busy with reading blogposts that I have no time for books anymore ! But I have read so many books during my life I was a real bookworm ! When the Kindles came out my son bought me one because the got full with books and on holidays I would have needed an extra suitcase !

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Lovely review. Thank you for the recommend. I am adding the title to my reading list. The 1920s are a perfect setting for a feminie side story.

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