The Enchanted April (1923)

by Elizabeth von Arnim

A seaside castle in Italy in the springtime — a sunny, blooming paradise that fixes ruptured marriages, cures sourness, opens locked hearts. It's probably too magical to be believed — what's going to happen when the vacationers return to rainy London? — but one doesn't have to believe in happy endings to enjoy The Enchanted April. Another message is about the power of a beautiful getaway to restore the mind and spirit. Four dissatisfied English women rent a castle for a month in the sumptuous surroundings of San Salvatore. "Having freesias to pick in armfuls if you wanted to, and with glorious sunshine flooding the room, and in your summer frock, and its being only the first of April!" one gushes. "I suppose you realize, don't you, that we've got to heaven?"

In the lavishly described paradise the women find, at different rates, "how much we need a perfect rest" — from neglectful husbands, dreary work, duty, even (in the case of the titled beauty) from too much admiration. Long before pop psychology preached saying no and not feeling guilty, Arnim extolled the joy of not doing a thing you don't want to do.

Whatever one thinks of the revived and new romances at The Enchanted April's conclusion, even the most cynical reader will allow that it's good to take a vacation.

The author of The Enchanted April was a cousin of Katherine Mansfield who married a German count, lived on the continent for many years, and employed E. M. Forster and Hugh Walpole to tutor her children. Since her first book, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, was a great success, most of her 20 subsequent novels were published under the pseudonym "the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden."


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