Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Armin

Two women from 1920's London spot an advertisement in 'The Times' wanting four people to rent a castle in Italy for the month of April.  Both of them want to go; but they wonder if they should.  As they plan how much it will cost, they figure out who to invite and find two other women to take with them.  One is Lady Caroline and the other Mrs Fisher.  The one difference about them all is that none of them have anything in common; except they love the castle they arrive at.  It's breath-takingly beautiful, overlooks the sea, has the most wonderful gardens surrounding it... yet, these four women will find that - as April moves on - they will be uplifted, changed and freed.

When I received this book in the mail, I thought it was going to be a wonderful, old-fashioned classic.  And it is.  However, I have found that it does ebb and flow in its chapters; something which bothers me when a writer really should speed up at the right places.  I found there was too much thinking; it's a very pensive book and something I find isn't to my liking.  So, I'm afraid to say that I didn't finish the book in the required time for two reasons:  the first was that I celebrated my birthday last Tuesday and I didn't get a chance to do anything much over the last few days but put together a home theatre system.  The other was that I lost interest in the book.  I did try to pick it up many times, however, it failed to keep me interested.  I guess it's just not my type of book.

Elizabeth von Arnim (née Mary Annette Beauchamp, `May’) was born 31 August 1866 at Kiribili Point, Sydney, Australia. In 1871 the Beauchamps left Australia to live in Switzerland for a time before settling in England. Arnim attended the Blythwood House School in London, then Queen's College School in Horn Lane, Acton in 1881.In 1889 she travelled abroad to Rome with her father when she met a German nobleman, Count Henning August von Arnim (1851–1910). Two years later they married in London at St. Stephen's, Kensington, 21 February 1891. 
Writing was the refuge for Arnim in her, what turned out to be, incompatible marriage. They were now living on the vast and somewhat neglected von Arnim estate, Nassenheide, in Pomerania.Arnim’s husband had increasing debts and was eventually sent to prison for fraud. This was when she created her pen name `Elizabeth' and launched her career as a writer by anonymously publishing her semi-autobiographical, brooding yet satirical Elizabeth and her German Garden. (1898) It would be such a success as to be reprinted twenty times in it's first year. A bitter-sweet memoir and companion to it was The Solitary Summer, (1899) and The Benefactress (1902) was also semi-autobiographical.
in August of 1910 Count Henning August von Arnim died. Arnim left London to move back to her beloved Switzerland, where she had such great memories from her youth. She built Château Soleil near Randogne sur Sierre, Valais.  In 1914 Arnim fell in love with John Francis Stanley Russell, second Earl Russell, (1865–1931) Bertrand Russell's older brother. They moved back to England and on 11 February 1916 she became Countess Russell. She almost immediately regretted this whirlwind marriage and fled to the United States. 
The same year Armin had left Russell for good. What many say is Arnim's masterpiece, Vera, (1921) is a condemnation of Russell. It would not be the lat time she caricatures him. The Enchanted April (1922) again contains themes of feminine protest and male tyranny. Four women leave gloomy London to embark on a rejuvenating trip to sunny southern Italy. There was also a movie based on it. Arnim's affair with Alexander Stuart Frere (1892–1984) inspired Love. (1925) Titles to follow were Father, (1931) The Jasmine Farm Mr Skeffington. (1940)  
(1934) and when World War II broke out however she travelled to the United States to reside there. Dealing with the one constant and consistent source of acceptance and love in her life, Arnim's autobiographical All the Dogs of my Life was printed in 1936. On 9 February 1941 Elizabeth von Arnim died from complications of influenza at the Riverside Infirmary in Charleston, South Carolina.


  1. Wow! She certainly had an interesting life! I love that you wrote up a little biography about her. Sad that the book was a little slow for you, but I'm glad that you powered through and were able to finish. I will definitely have to read this book because all the people reviewing it have made me curious!

    Thanks so much for participating in the event! I can't wait to see your guest post on my blog. :)

  2. Oh, and Happy Birthday! I hope it was a fantastic day!

  3. Oops. I missed the part where you said you didn't finish. Sorry it wasn't to your liking.

  4. Hey, that's okay... I guess some books aren't meant to be. I got halfway through it and got the idea of it. The thing with this site is that whether I finish the book or not, I'll review it. However, if you like it, that's the main thing. :D

    My birthday was great! I had a lovely lunch out, got some great pressies including a $50 book voucher and $50 music voucher and other things too; then spent the day with Mum. My day was finished having dinner at my folk's house with birthday cake. I was thoroughly spoilt. :D

  5. Nice! Sounds like a wonderful day! Glad you had a great birthday! :)

  6. I had a lot of the same feelings about the was definitely slow going but I found it did pick up a bit as it progressed. However it wasn't really my "type" of book either so I completely understand where you are coming from!