The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April

I was recommended The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim by a colleague, as we were both off on holidays to Italy in the summer. Reading it in a blustery October brought the warmth, smells and breathtaking vistas of the Italian coastline right back.

This is such a joy to read. The backdrop of the castle San Salvatore in Portefino is delightful and the descriptions transport you to smell the flowers, and to wander from the cosy rooms out onto the terrace and into the gardens with the characters. These are the four ladies who have answered an advertisement in The Times to rent a castle on the Mediterranean for the month of April (necessary servants remaining). The advert is addressed to those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine and Mrs Wilkins is immediately drawn in, pouncing on a perfect stranger also sitting in the 1920s ladies club, to persuade her to join her in escaping the endless February rain. Once Mrs Arbuthnot, equally unhappily married as Mrs Wilkins, agrees, they advertise for two ladies to accompany them.

There begins their Italian adventure. The castle is indeed enchanted and begins to cast its spell on all of them as they are forced to confront what is missing in their lives and each open their hearts to love. If this sounds a little trying, it’s not – this is such witty and clever writing, with an omniscient narrator who gently pokes fun at each of them, always unobtrusively. By the end you are rooting for everything to work out for everyone and it proves all in all, most satisfying, as Mrs Fisher, the eldest, might say.