The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Elizabeth von Arnim
The Enchanted April

This just sounds so appealing from the blurb on the back of the book, with an advert in The Times offering a mediaeval castle to rent for a month with particular mention of the wisteria and sunshine there, and the temptation this then is to the lady readers of the advert. The book is set in the 1920s, which also adds to its charm.

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This just sounds so appealing from the blurb on the back of the book, with an advert in The Times offering a mediaeval castle to rent for a month with particular mention of the wisteria and sunshine there, and the temptation this then is to the lady readers of the advert. The book is set in the 1920s, which also adds to its charm.

Mrs Wilkins is sitting in her women’s club in London on a rainy day in February, feeling low and thinking of the shopping she has to do and the monotony of her life, when she absentmindedly reads an advert in The Times newspaper laid on the table. The advert reads ‘To those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain’. She initially discards the paper in irritation as she feels that it emphasises the contrast with her present monotonous life and that such an advert is only for the rich. However, she then reflects that the advert is addressed to those who ‘appreciate wisteria and sunshine’, so not necessarily addressed to those with money, and ‘she certainly appreciated them’. Ooooh, I love this story already! What a charming dream the castle seems.

Mrs Wilkins’ husband, Mellersh, is a confident and handsome and admired solicitor, who she feels inadequate alongside. She is shy and finds it difficult to know what to say in social situations. She has some savings of her own, which she has diligently saved from her dress allowance for ‘a rainy day’. She then begins to wonder if this castle could actually be the planned-for rainy day and if possibly fate had intended her to use her savings for such a thing, but she again then feels irritated with the dream and resigned to her life. She prepares to leave the club, but then spots a woman who she recognises from her church, Mrs Arbuthnot, and notices that she also seems to be reading the advert. Mrs Wilkins decides on an impulse to sit down and speak to Mrs Arbuthnot about the advert, though they have never spoken before, noting internally that Mrs Arbuthnot looked kind but unhappy, and questioning within herself ‘why couldn’t two unhappy people refresh each other on their way through this dusty business of life by a little talk, real natural talk, about what they felt, what they would have liked, what they still tried to hope?’. She imagines that Mrs Arbuthnot is dreaming of the castle too, picturing ‘the colour, the fragrance, the light, the soft lapping of the sea among little hot rocks…instead of tomorrow the same and the day after the same and always the same’. Mrs Arbuthnot is surprised to be spoken to by someone she doesn’t recognise, though she had been reading the advert and ‘had since been lost in dreams…of light, of colour, of fragrance, of the soft lapping of the sea among little hot rocks’. She presumes that Mrs Wilkins needs advice, as she is used to helping and advising the poor, but Mrs Wilkins keeps referring back to the advert. Mrs Arbuthnot finally admits, with a lit up face and dreamy expression, that the advert is ‘very wonderful’ but then adds that ‘it’s no use wasting one’s time thinking of such things’. She denies being unhappy and miserable or that she needs a rest, denying this both to Mrs Wilkins and to herself. However, Mrs Wilkins begins to have a strong vision in her mind of the two of them sitting under the wisteria at the castle in the sunshine, and she suggests to Mrs Arbuthnot that they go to the castle together, as it would then halve the cost, and she is desperately and almost tearfully representing to her how otherwise they will just continue do the same things in their life ‘just as we’ve been doing for years and years, and will go on doing for years and years’, stating that a break would be good for them and make them better people. Mrs Arbuthnot stresses the need for them to be grateful for what they have at home and is earnest in her advice that they follow their compass points of ‘God, Husband, Home, and Duty’, feeling strongly that it would be wrong to think of herself when she should be thinking of the poor. She feels uneasy and almost fearful of how Mrs Wilkins’ excitement is making her feel. Mrs Wilkins answers abruptly that home isn’t heaven. Oooh, the first couple of chapters are just wonderful and have immediately drawn me in, there were so many lines I loved from it and had to jot down, and I just felt so strongly about these two women. I could feel myself being caught up in the magical dream of that castle and the wish to be there, although knowing it would just stay a dream with me. And I felt so sorry for poor Mrs Wilkins who is shy and struggles to fit in and feels overshadowed by her husband, and is ‘practically invisible…characterless’. She seems so powerless, so trapped with the monotony of her life, it seems like she is just slowly wasting away. 

And the advert itself is so appealing, no real facts given, but just all whimsical charming temptation really. As Mrs Wilkins says, it is directed to those who think about beautiful things like wisteria and sunshine, not to those who think about the practicalities of price and exact location, what wonderful marketing that is, to touch people’s dreams and innermost hopes like that. I love the way the advert insinuates itself into Mrs Wilkins’ mind, as after immediately rejecting it she is then tempted to reconsider it, like the advert has become a gentle little voice in her head. And I can’t help also loving the nostalgia of seeing an advert in a newspaper too, so rarely are newspapers seen and read now.

I didn’t like the sound of Mrs Arbuthnot at first, with her being someone who ‘analysed, classified, divided, and registered the poor’, I saw her as a bossy busybody telling people who are poor how they should be doing things better, much like Mrs Pardiggle in Bleak House. But then oh, my heart bled for her and I ended up feeling even more sorry for her than I had for Mrs Wilkins, with her tragic life full of self denial, her self-inflicted barriers and need to give a certain impression to others which doesn’t allow her to admit she is unhappy, her strong belief that she shouldn’t even wish to be happy in her life and doesn’t deserve it, and her disillusionment with her husband and now having ‘nobody of her own to lavish herself on’, and ‘her face, and particularly her eyes, continued sad’. I am full of admiration with how the author so acutely depicts her characters’ behaviours and thoughts and the social niceties that restrain them. And their wish to stay at the castle seems so harmless, their dreams just being of ‘light, of colour, of fragrance…’, etc, and I also love that the same list of words is used for both of their private thoughts, this is written so absolutely beautifully and delicately. And the beautifully written description of Mrs Arbuthnot being almost hypnotised by the excitement expressed on Mrs Wilkins’ face, which ‘was as luminous and tremulous under it as at water in sunlight when it is ruffled by a gust of wind’. 

I love the phrasing in this book too, the sentences almost have a kind of aside in them, almost something incidental to the basic line being given. And this almost incidental aside, through the use of commas, gives extra insightful information, which almost feels like a secret little observation on the character’s life from the author to the reader, and which also serves to explain the situation in fuller detail. I suspect I’ve not explained that at all well (!) and there is probably a proper technical term for this kind of sentence, but one example is, ‘Her dress allowance, given her by her father, was £100 a year, so that Mrs Wilkins’ clothes were what her husband, urging her to save, called modest and becoming, and her acquaintance to each other, when they spoke of her at all, which was seldom for she was very negligible, called a perfect sight’. I just love the way the words sound in my mind as I read them with the appropriate short pause after each comma and the bit within the comma like a side comment. But there is also so much information given in these (admittedly long) sentences, this one for example gives us the details of Mrs Wilkins’ finances and clothes choices, the way her husband clearly influences these, and the view of her friends which is also probably unknown to Mrs Wilkins. What a clever sentence to include so much but also to still flow so well. It reads quite like people speak, I think, interrupting themselves with an additional thought while they are still keeping on with their main point.

And there is humour in the book too, such as Mrs Wilkins’ head ‘drooping a little as if the recollection of Hampstead bowed her’, and Mrs Arbuthnot trying vainly to categorise Mrs Wilkins and deciding ‘to put her under the heading Nerves. It was just possible that she ought to go straight into the category Hysteria, which was often only the antechamber to Lunacy’. And also wry slightly sad humour, such as Mr and Mrs Wilkins’ quarrel ‘if that can be called a quarrel which is conducted with dignified silence on one side and earnest apology on the other’. And Mrs Wilkins judging that Mrs Arbuthnot was wiser than her because ‘the very way Mrs Arbuthnot parted her hair suggested a great calm that could only proceed from wisdom’.

I think their marriages are so interesting too, with how insignificant Mrs Wilkins is in hers and how overshadowed she feels by her husband. She and her husband have ‘not left off being together for a single day for two whole years’, and how stifling this sounds and her personality just being subdued under it, and how she is incapable of explaining her feelings to him. And I felt sad with how Mrs Wilkins said that she had at one time wished that her home was her heaven and had tried to make it so, but it wasn’t so. And Mrs Arbuthnot is also very unhappy in her marriage, she had initially worshipped her husband passionately (and her passionate feelings quite surprised me, given how self-controlled she is now) but she seems to have soon felt rejected by him, ‘he didn’t seem to have the least need of any of the things he used to say were so important and beautiful, love, home, complete communion of thoughts, complete immersion in each other’s interests’, and so she then closed down those feelings and gradually taught herself to become accustomed to this empty form of marriage, leading to her presumably becoming the woman she is today. She is also mortified at how her husband, Frederick, earns his living, and the money which he then gives to her, as it comes from him writing the memoirs of the mistresses of kings, of which there are a great supply to choose from which enables him to publish a book every year, and this distresses her greatly as she is ashamed that he, and therefore she, ‘draw their sustenance from guilt’, and she is also distressed at the enthusiasm that people clearly have to ‘read of wickedness’ and to ‘read the books with glee’. Mr Arbuthnot does publish these books under an assumed name however.

But oh, the depiction of the women’s loneliness and sadness is really quite heartbreaking to read, particularly their lack of resistance to it or lack of any feeling that they could change it or deserve to change it and aim to have a happier life, they are just so tragically subdued and bowed down and humble, bless them. It’s interesting to consider their unhappiness, as they’re not being cruelly treated by their husbands, they’re just being effectively ignored and unloved, and this chips away at their self confidence and their belief that they might deserve better. Mrs Arbuthnot ‘had been able to be happy only by forgetting happiness. She wanted to stay like that’, so she’s also almost fearful at the thought of feeling happiness with how alien this would be to her, what a sad sad lonely life she has had, bless her. And her view that she should deny happiness to herself, ‘there were many delightful things one would like to do, and what was strength given to one for, except to help one not to do them’, what a sad tragic sentence that is, how self-denying. And again with her struggle to understand ‘her sudden longing for what was, after all, self-indulgence, when for years no such desire had entered her heart’. And Mrs Wilkins says, ‘I’ve done nothing but duties, things for other people, ever since I was a girl, and I don’t believe anybody loves me a bit the better’, poor thing, to have been so giving and so unappreciated. And how they would usually never open up to someone like this or be so honest and vulnerable, Mrs Wilkins says, ‘I’ve never spoken to anyone before in my life like this’. I just hope Mrs Arbuthnot does agree to go to the castle with Mrs Wilkins, or even if not then at least that they stay in touch and continue being open with one another as they have here. But I am willing them to go for it, to follow the dream which they secretly want so desperately and to chase the happiness which they feel guilty even considering for themselves.

Finally Mrs Arbuthnot agrees to enquiry further about the castle, not to commit but just to enquire, though she says this in a low voice ‘as if the vicar and the Savings Bank and all her waiting and dependent poor were listening and condemning’. They do so immediately, writing from the table at the club, and put this in the letter box there, though they both ‘felt the same sense of guilt’ once this had been done. The owner of the castle, Mr Briggs, replies with the details including that it sleeps eight and has three sitting rooms, as well as battlements and dungeons. Omg, it just sounds better and better!

Mrs Arbuthnot and Mrs Wilkins have by now decided to definitely take the castle, which is called San Salvatore, and have decided to tell people that each is going to stay with a friend who has a house in Italy, their acquaintances being of different circles. Mrs Wilkins thinks her husband would complain about the money being spent, even though it is her own money entirely. But Mrs Arbuthnot feels, to her sadness, that her husband would be pleased she is going away and would urge her not to hurry back, and that he wouldn’t miss her or need her at all. However they are daunted by the price of the rent, and also by the owner’s request for references as they would then need to explain to their referee why this was needed and they do not wish anyone to know what they are doing. Mrs Arbuthnot decides that references will likely not be needed if they pay the full amount upfront, and Mrs Wilkins decides the price for each of them would be less if they invited two more ladies to go with them. They therefore advertise in the Agony column of The Times, and Lady Caroline Dester and Mrs Fisher both apply. They meet both these ladies in order to assess them, and decide to say yes to both. Lady Caroline is a young woman of 28 who just wants rest above everything else and to escape from the demands of society which constantly annoy and drain her. Mrs Fisher is an elderly widow and wants quiet in order to revisit the memories in her head of her childhood meeting famous people. Mrs Wilkins is quite overawed at Mrs Fisher and begins to nervously babble, which in turn makes Mrs Fisher a little suspicious of her but Mrs Arbuthnot’s calm presence which ‘inspired trust and liking even in Tube officials’ allays her concerns. However, Mrs Arbuthnot agonises over her feelings of guilt in spending money on her own happiness, ‘she was unable to look anybody in the face’. Mrs Wilkins has no doubts that what they are doing is right, but is apprehensive about telling her husband. She decides to butter him up before telling him, so buys him his favourite foods and takes great care with the cooking of his meals, however this works so well and makes him so appreciative of her that he decides to treat her by suggesting they go to Italy for Easter, as he had been thinking for a while of taking a holiday and privately felt that his wife ‘would be useful…for holding things, for waiting with luggage’. He is angry and offended when she explains that she is already going to Italy to stay with a friend there, and he insists he doesn’t believe this at all, which necessitates Mrs Arbuthnot having to speak to Mr Wilkins in order to convince him. By contrast, Mrs Arbuthnot does not even tell her husband that she is going away, she just leaves him a note, as he has been away himself for a few weeks working on his books and hadn’t returned by the time she leaves, also she feels sure that ‘he would not be interested, he would not care’. This results in both ladies feeling enormous guilt as the holiday approaches and still feeling guilty while they wait on the platform for their train to start their journey, though Mrs Wilkins begins to get annoyed at this feeling of guilt, saying ‘we’ve been too good…we’re brow-beaten, we’re not any longer real human beings’. But they go, taking the train from Victoria Station, then the boat to Calais, with a difficult crossing which makes them sick but then ‘the real splendour of what they were doing first began to warm their benumbed spirits’, and they continue their journey with a train from Paris and into Italy, and discover that the lives they’d left behind ‘had faded to the dimness of a dream’. Omg, I can’t believe that Mr Wilkins suggested he and she go to Italy, poor Mrs Wilkins, I really felt for her! And grrrr, I did feel for her even more with Mr Wilkin’s thinking that her accompanying him would mostly be for how useful she could be! And, as before, I felt sorry for Mrs Wilkins’ situation with her husband, and then read about Mrs Arbuthnot’s situation with her husband and felt even more sorry for her, it’s just so tragic to read the words that ‘he would not be interested, he would not care’, poor poor Mrs Arbuthnot. 

I am so pleased Mrs Arbuthnot and Mrs Wilkins have found each other. I do obviously wonder how the holiday will go, but I do very much hope that they stay close friends after it and continue to support and lift each other when they go back to their normal lives, and that their lives then aren’t as tragic and hurtful to them, even if their lives are as uninteresting and monotonous as they are now, because they would then have each other for support. I love their different characters and how they bring out the strength in each other and influence each other for the better, such as Mrs Wilkins’ happiness spreading to Mrs Arbuthnot ‘like a rose-coloured flame’. 

And I am soooo excited that they are actually doing it, they are actually going to this wonderful-sounding castle! But it kind of blows my mind a bit just paying for a place without seeing pictures and knowing every single detail about it, we are so used nowadays to being able to look such a place up on the internet and see lots of photos and get others’ reviews of it. And I know I’m being really boring, but the idea too of heading off without holiday and health insurance makes me apprehensive! But I do love the way they get there, mostly by train, which just seems to be such a part of the adventure too.

I also wonder about the owner of San Salvatore and how he attained this castle and how often he lives there and indeed what his life is like there in that heavenly-sounding place. 

Their journey to San Salvatore is quite challenging, as the trains in Italy are running late so they arrive at their final station, in the rain, far later at night than they’d planned. The gardener, Domenico, has sent his cousin to meet them from the train and he has duly waited there for several hours for their arrival, but he speaks no English and they speak no Italian and they are quite suspicious of him when he grabs their suitcases and hustles them into his vehicle, ‘profuse of words though he was, they only looked at him blankly. He went on talking, however…sure that sooner or later they must understand him, especially as he was careful to talk very loud’. The journey takes longer than they imagine it should and they seem to be on very lonely desolate unlit roads, which adds to their fear. They stop in a village but can see no sign of San Salvatore, then several men appear and begin to unload their suitcases which convinces them further that they are being robbed. They regret their lack of Italian, ‘such ignorance was not only contemptible, it was, they now saw, definitely dangerous’. They are led along a narrow footpath beside the sea, through a gated archway and up steps and across a bridge over a ravine, and can then feel grass underfoot and smell flowers, then up more steps and through an iron gate and then realise they have reached the castle, and ‘their suitcases were waiting for them and they had not been murdered’. Mrs Wilkins puts her arm around Mrs Arbuthnot and kisses her, and they call each other ‘Dear Lotty’ (being Mrs Wilkins) and ‘Dear Rose’ (being Mrs Arbuthnot). Awww, them calling each other by their first names made me quite emotional, it felt like a big step forward for their relationship with each other, and also for the reader’s relationship with them as we’ve only known them as Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot until this point, I felt it was beautifully and delicately done to introduce their first names here, especially after all the tension of the journey, I feel like I am caring so much for them both now. And I was quite alarmed for them being driven through the dark unable to understand a word that their driver was saying, them thinking they were going to be robbed or possibly killed, and it made me reflect again how dangerous it seems them doing this then all those years ago when things were so different to now (the local people don’t speak English, they themselves can’t just google Italian words that they need, they can’t check their location on google maps, no mobile phones, etc etc), two women on their own with no way of communicating and no idea where they are, omg, it makes me shiver really to consider it. 

But again I loved the humour in it, especially the character of the horse, I loved the line of it being ‘in an attitude of thought’ and that ‘Beppo turned round on his box, a disquieting habit already noticed, for surely his horse ought to be carefully watched’, and ‘the horse, who knew every inch of the way, stopped suddenly, throwing everything in the fly into a heap, and then proceeded up at the slowest of walks’. This horse may be up there with my all-time favourite horse in literature, being Mr Boffins’ horse from Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend! And I also chuckled at Beppo believing he was speaking so clearly and that they would surely understand him if he just spoke louder. And when the ladies finally realised that “si” is the word for “yes”, so then frequently repeat this word and Domenico then ‘congratulated them in a great flow of polite words, not one of which they understood, on their magnificent Italian’.

I also loved that their realisation that they are at last at San Salvatore and are safe was that ‘they felt the grass, flicking wet against their stockings…with the smell all the way of the flowers they could not see’, I like that it is the beauty of nature which greets them and comforts them. I also loved their enthusiasm for Italy, even in the rain, ‘it was Italy, nothing it did could be bad’ and ‘the very rain was different’. And I will have to google to see if the place names are real, obviously I’m not expecting to find San Salvatore (although wouldn’t that be lovely?!) but the places of Modane and Mezzago and Castagneto perhaps.

Mrs Wilkins wakes the next morning and lays in bed wondering what she will see when she opens the shutters at the window, ‘she lay putting off the great moment of going to the window as one puts off opening a precious letter, gloating over it’. She feels thoroughly rested and content and happy, at being there and also at being in a bed and a room by herself without having to occupy it with her husband. She finally jumps out of bed and opens the window and is greeted by sunshine and mountain views and trees and flowers, she is overawed by the beauty and amazed that she is lucky enough to see it, ‘it was as though she were too small to hold so much of joy’. She realises she can’t even properly picture her husband in her mind. She also finds that all her worries and nerves and shyness have similarly dissolved, and sees herself in the mirror as a different person, noticing that she has pretty hair, which she had never noticed before. Mrs Arbuthnot wakes with ‘a delightful feeling of security, of relief…had woken up confident…this was the simple happiness of complete harmony with her surroundings’. They stand arm in arm looking out the window at the garden, and are also anticipating preparing the house for Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher’s arrival, keen for them to be as entranced by it all as they are. However they then see Lady Caroline sitting on a garden wall looking out to sea. She explains to them that she arrived yesterday morning, and that she can speak Italian. As they chat, Lady Caroline begins to feel apprehensive that the two ladies will crowd her and want to often be around her, which is the opposite of what she wishes, she is therefore determined to try and discourage them, although she cannot even remember their names. She snubs them, though so politely that they’re not aware they have been snubbed, and they go inside for breakfast and find Mrs Fisher at the dining table eating her breakfast. She also arrived yesterday morning, and has quite a proprietorial manner, having already told the cook what time dinner will be as she also speaks Italian. This manner annoys the ladies somewhat, and they are also disappointed that they cannot now get the castle ready for anyone. Mrs Wilkins, however, convinces Mrs Arbuthnot that it is silly to mind such things when they are in such a beautiful place, which she labels as heaven. They go down to the water’s edge and sit under a pine tree, relaxing and dangling their feet in the water, ‘their happiness was then complete, their husbands would not have known them’. Meanwhile both Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline are plotting, separately, how they could appropriate particular rooms and gardens solely for their use, them both wanting to be entirely alone and not to mix with the others. Both also refuse to give orders about meals to the cook seeking guidance. Lady Caroline, when she is finally on her own, begins to think about her life and concludes, to her surprise and disappointment, that it has been ‘a noise all about nothing…empty’ which makes her feel lonely. Awww, I loved Mrs Wilkins deliberately delaying opening the shutters in the morning and just enjoying the anticipation of what she would see, I felt so happy for her happiness, bless her. But I then felt sad again that her usual expression at home was of ‘effort and fear’. And I felt happy for how secure and confident Mrs Arbuthnot felt when she woke, but again sad that this was clearly the opposite of how she usually felt, and that she wistfully wished that her husband could be there to see it all ‘as he would have seen it when first they were lovers, in the days when he saw what she saw and loved what she loved’. 

I did feel a bit sad that Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher arrived at the castle before Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, it does seem a bit presumptuous of them, although of course they have paid for their share of the castle, but I didn’t like the display of their selfishness in choosing the best rooms for themselves, and even their ability to speak Italian which then seems to put them above Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot. I am desperate for Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot not to be unhappy in any way, I feel quite ridiculously protective towards them, and I am a little fearful that Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher could make them unhappy. I realise too that I’m far less interested in Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher’s characters, they’ve just not grabbed me like Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot have, and when they’re on the page I just want to skip onto the next bits with Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot. However, I do love the sound of the sitting room that Mrs Fisher has taken for her own, with honey-coloured walls, a big window overlooking the sea, ‘mellow books, many in ivory or lemon-coloured covers’, a glass door which leads to the battlements and the watch-tower with wonderful views, and a writing table in the watch-tower which surely would be the most heavenly and inspiring place to write, or to sit in one of the chairs and read one of the delicious sounding mellow books.

And how gorgeous San Salvatore sounds with its views of mountains and sea, and with beautiful flowers and trees and small gardens on different levels, and I did have to google the Judas tree, which is indeed beautiful. And yet again, I’m loving all the beautiful descriptions of nature and can’t help jotting them all down, such as, ‘the lovely mountains, exquisitely different in colour, were asleep too in the light’, and ‘the flower-starred grass slope’, and ‘a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose-colours of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword’, and ‘almost motionless fishing boats hovered like a flock of white birds on the tranquil sea’, and ‘the wisteria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life’, and ‘marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning’, and ‘red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright fierce colour’, and ‘the trembling delicacy of the olives’, and ‘the periwinkles looked exactly as if they were being poured down each side of the steps’, and ‘the warm sleepy sea heaved gently among the rocks’, and ‘the cushions of wild thyme that padded the spaces between the rocks’. It’s all just such beautiful wording, and makes San Salvatore seem such an idyllic place.

Lady Caroline, or Scrap as she is nicknamed by her family, is thinking about her looks and her voice and how these attract men without her even trying, and how she had once thought this was an advantage but is now tired of having to fend men off, and also that their wives and girlfriends then hate her thinking she is after their men when she isn’t at all. But she is also thinking of how she will have nothing when her beauty is gone as she feels that she is fit for nothing. She is also thinking of the one man she had wanted to marry and how he had been killed in the war. Mrs Fisher seeks out Lady Caroline, after hearing that she had told the others that she was unwell, though Lady Caroline had only said this in order to be left alone so she is not pleased when Mrs Fisher comes out to her. Mrs Fisher gives up with Lady Caroline after a short time, and goes back to her sitting room which she regards as private and hers alone, to find Mrs Arbuthnot and Mrs Wilkins sitting in it, Mrs Wilkins actually sitting at the writing table and using Mrs Fisher’s pen. Mrs Wilkins says she senses that Mrs Fisher doesnt want them there, though Mrs Arbuthnot begins to question why, as it should be a shared space. Mrs Wilkins says that Mrs Fisher is still in her London way of thinking but soon the beauty and peace of San Salvatore will work its magic on her and she won’t feel like she wants to be alone and will be inviting them to join her. As they leave the room, Mrs Arbuthnot feels how much Mrs Wilkins has changed since they arrived there, having now a very balanced reasonable and calm temper, and seeming older and wiser and no longer the timid and hesitating person she was before, and Mrs Arbuthnot feels that she is now following Mrs Wilkins’ lead rather than the other way around, as it was in London. Mrs Arbuthnot feels happy at San Salvatore but also wishes she could share all this with her husband and she yearns for him to be there with her, though she avoids talking about him to Mrs Wilkins as it is just too difficult and hurtful. Mrs Wilkins tells Mrs Arbuthnot that she feels that Mr Wilkins has every right to be hurt and angry, as she realises now that she hadn’t behaved fairly to him, with him inviting her to holiday in Italy with him and she turning his invitation down and stating she would instead be going to Italy with her friends. She says she has therefore written to him to invite him to stay with them at San Salvatore. Mrs Arbuthnot is shocked at this and feels that Mrs Wilkins will regret inviting her husband. She says to her that she wants to try and understand this decision because she loves her. Mrs Wilkins agrees that it seems ‘idiotically illogical’ to invite the very person she was getting away from, but that she now feels ‘so happy…so well…so fearfully wholesome…so flooded with love’, and she says that being here has shown her that the most important thing is love and ‘I don’t see…that it matters who loves as long as somebody does’. She says when she was at home she was obsessed with measuring love and that she wouldn’t love her husband unless he loved her back in an equal measure, and she now realises the damage and hurt that this caused. Mrs Arbuthnot thinks sadly that the Wilkins’ marriage seems healthier and more natural than her marriage, and she wistfully wishes that she could also write to her husband and invite him to come to San Salvatore but she feels sure that he wouldn’t answer, or if he did answer then it would only be a hurried reply which would demonstrate how bored he was with her. She remembers their loving letters to each other when they first began their relationship, ‘aching with love and longing’, and thinks her heart would break to receive a short perfunctory letter from him now with how hurtful the contrast would be. Ooooh, no no no, my instinct is not to have Mr Wilkins there, I am so very disappointed that Mrs Wilkins has decided to invite him, I feel that he will spoil things and tarnish the place and disrupt their happiness and, as I said before, I feel so protective of them that it really quite upsets me to think of them being hurt and unhappy again. And it is wonderful how Mrs Wilkins has changed, it really is like the place is magical and has cast a spell on her, and I am so delighted that she is so happy and so altered from her usual downtrodden and unhappy self, it’s so heartwarming. 

And awww, I was so touched when Rose told Lotty that she loved her, and I am amazed again at how these women have developed and grown and altered, to now be able to feel and accept and acknowledge emotions like this, and what a deep friendship they have and how this will (hopefully) continue and enrich their lives for the better. I keep thinking again and again how beautifully this book is written. But again I feel such sadness for poor Mrs Arbuthnot in her marriage and how she thinks her husband feels about her. I don’t want Mr Wilkins to come to San Salvatore, but ironically I’d quite like Mrs Arbuthnot to invite her husband just so she could be convinced that he does love and cherish her, if of course he does, but maybe the risk is too great as I’d hate her to be hurt further, poor thing. I also liked the brief reference to Bleak House, with Mrs Fisher remembering a play she once saw and how the portrayal of Poor Jo affected her, as this is one of my favourite books and I always feel so sorry for Jo.

When they meet for their evening meal, Mrs Fisher voices her disapproval of how Lady Caroline is dressed and her consumption of wine, and refuses to acknowledge Mrs Wilkins’ comments at all. She then realises that Mrs Wilkins is speaking of her invitation to her husband, and is shocked by this, having presumed that both ladies were widows and not being at all keen for men to join them. Mrs Wilkins responds to Lady Caroline’s comments on liking the thought of escaping home and family affection, with her observation on how miserable it feels to live with someone who doesn’t love you. However, after Mrs Wilkins speaks about the one remaining spare bedroom in the castle that Mr Wilkins would occupy, she is informed by Mrs Fisher that she wants to invite a friend who will then naturally take that spare bedroom so she says that if Mr Wilkins does come to San Salvatore he will have to share Mrs Wilkins’ bedroom. This concerns Mrs Wilkins as she had felt so free that morning waking up alone in bed and she wonders if she would be able to feel quite so loving and forgiving towards her husband if she lost that freedom again. She shares these concerns with the group, but the discussion of sleeping arrangements with husbands disgusts Mrs Fisher as being very inappropriate for dining table talk, however Lady Caroline enters into the discussion wholeheartedly and begins to feel more interested and closer to Mrs Wilkins. Tee hee, I also chuckled at the cook’s decision to use as much cream and eggs as she thought fit and to see if anything was said about the bill, ‘her experience of the English was that they were quiet about bills, they were shy of words, they believed readily’.

I think it’s so interesting too with the use of names, with Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot now using each’s first names, and the author using these too when these characters are talking together but when they are with Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher the author refers to them again as Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot. And the same with Lady Caroline’s nickname Scrap, it is only when she is within her own thoughts that the author refers to her as Scrap, but when she is with the others she is Lady Caroline. And, just as interestingly, Mrs Fisher is always Mrs Fisher, when with the others and when thinking to herself. Ooooh, I can already tell that this is going to become one of my favourite books, there is so much subtle meaning in it, it is just so wonderfully written. 

The following morning, Lady Caroline is feeling regretful for being so friendly with Mrs Wilkins on the previous evening, thinking that Mrs Wilkins will seek her out that day and expect to chat further, she is particularly apprehensive of being ‘hailed with morning cheerfulness’ which she hates. But she actually doesn’t see Mrs Wilkins at all, which then begins to slightly offend her as she felt she had gone out of her way to be friendly to her. Mrs Fisher feels restless all day, unable to settle to reading or thinking, which frustrates her. She wishes she could talk to someone who would be understanding about her feelings of restlessness and thinks that Mrs Wilkins would probably be a person who would understand, but her dignity won’t allow her to speak to Mrs Wilkins. Mrs Arbuthnot also feels unsettled that day and with thoughts going round and round in her mind, which she doesn’t like and which makes her feel dejected, ‘for years she had taken care to have no time to think’. She has sat very still and quiet all day, looking at the scenery and thinking how beautiful it is but also how she longs to be looking at it and commenting on it with someone who loves her. She also feels unable to pray or to focus her thinking on her poor, which upsets her. She blames Mrs Wilkins for putting her husband in her mind so much, as Mrs Wilkins had advised her to write and invite him there, and thinks again about her husband feeling bored by her and her religion. She then thinks of her baby who died, thinking that he wouldn’t have been bored by her, that she always would have been to him ‘somebody special, somebody different from every one else’. Oh, how my heart bleeds for poor Mrs Arbuthnot and how sad she is and how she feels so deeply. And it’s fascinating how the peace and calm of San Salvatore acts upon all the women, like it’s a magic spell, not just simply making them happy but also pushing them to consider difficult feelings, and how their reactions are different to each other. It feels like this is such a surprisingly complex book with so much under the surface.

As the week progresses, Lady Caroline and Mrs Wilkins grow closer and now call each other Caroline and Lotty. Lady Caroline is hoping that Mr Wilkins will be nice to his wife when he arrives, as she wants Mrs Wilkins to be happy. She is quite fascinated by Mrs Wilkins, as ‘it seemed so extraordinary to be as happy as all that on so little’. Mrs Wilkins is now not apprehensive about her husband’s arrival or him sleeping in her room, thinking that at San Salvatore she is secure in heaven and nothing can pull her down, and it’s more likely that he will be drawn up into heaven himself. However, the other three women are apprehensive of his arrival, and on the morning of his arrival ‘all three had breakfast that day in their rooms, moved by a common instinct to take cover’. Mr Wilkins’ main motive in accepting his wife’s invitation to come to San Salvatore is because she had mentioned in her letter that Lady Caroline was staying with them and he saw the chance to try to become her family’s solicitor, though he is determined to also be friendly to his wife during his stay as he is grateful to her for affording him the chance to further his career. However, the first time he meets Lady Caroline, and also Mrs Fisher, is when he rushes out of the bathroom dressed only in a towel due to an issue with the bath. Awww, I’m glad that Lady Caroline has realised the worth of Mrs Wilkins. And it’s wonderful how San Salvatore has changed Mrs Wilkins, has made her so serene and confident and untouchable and happy. And also the saga of Mr Wilkins’ bath, with all the servants involved in monitoring the boiler and taps and being reluctant to leave him on his own, was very funny to read, as was him rushing out of the bathroom in just a towel and trying to still appear respectable and formal to Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher. And I am disappointed, though I guess not surprised, that Mr Wilkins had a business motive for coming to San Salvatore, grrr, I do hope he won’t hurt Mrs Wilkins.

Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline feel differently towards Mr Wilkins when they meet him again at dinner because now ‘they were acquainted with Mr Wilkins’ legs…he could not be to them as other men’, and they felt towards him ‘indulgent’ and as if they were ‘peculiarly and even mystically related’. Mrs Fisher likes Mr Wilkins, finding his talk interesting, and finding his interest in her flattering. Mrs Wilkins is amazed at how quickly he settles into life there and seems different to his usual self, much kinder and patient, even after she confesses to him about her spending her savings to be there, and his kindness then results in her being even more cheerful and light-hearted, ‘not a shred of fear of him left in her’. The cook presents Mrs Fisher with the extremely high food bill for the first week, to her horror. Mrs Fisher goes angrily to Lady Caroline, as she was under the impression that Lady Caroline was advising the cook about the meals, but Lady Caroline states she wasn’t. However, Lady Caroline says she will pay the first week’s food bill as her present to the others. Mr Wilkins then suggests a simple solution of how the food budget could be managed for the remaining weeks. Tee hee, I love the lines about them feeling differently towards Mr Wilkins now they had seen his legs! I wonder if Mrs Wilkins plans to talk to her husband about how restrained and afraid she felt in their marriage and how she wants things to be different now, or does she think voicing these things would cause harm and so is leaving it all to San Salvatore’s magic and hoping the new Mr Wilkins continues when they return home?

Mr Wilkins is genuinely feeling kindly and fondly towards his wife, as he is so grateful to her for being the means of him becoming acquainted with Lady Caroline, and is also impressed that Lady Caroline obviously sees something in his wife to like. And as he is nice to her, so she becomes nicer to him. Mrs Arbuthnot decides to write to her husband and invite him to come to San Salvatore, after seeing the effect it has had on Mr Wilkins. She begins to feel that her ‘obstinate straitlacedness and…austere absorption’ was the cause of driving him away. She wonders too if once love has been driven away, if it ever can be encouraged back again. She determines that once he is there, she will ask for things to be different in their marriage. But she then immediately regrets sending the letter, thinking that he will just reply with an excuse, if he replies at all, and she will then just be even unhappier than she was before, and she even begins to regret coming on this holiday as it has given her time to think which has caused her pain. Awww, lovely Mrs Arbuthnot, I can’t help thinking that all her self-imposed restrictions which she believes have driven her husband away from her, all actually come from the grief of losing her child and not receiving any help to deal with this, bless her. And I do wish that Mrs Arbuthnot would speak to Mrs Wilkins about her fears of her husband rejecting her and her suspicion that she bores him, and even about the loss of her child (though this might be too big a step for her, and I don’t imagine women at that time readily spoke about such things), as she might then feel some relief in sharing.

I can’t help feeling anxious at the time moving on and the end of their holiday drawing closer. Are they not getting anxious too? And I keep wondering if any of them will stay at San Salvatore (or at least the area) forever and not go home. 

Mrs Arbuthnot calculates how soon her letter might reach her husband, and thinks that today could be when a telegram might arrive to her if he has sent one. She sits outside all morning, wondering if there will be a telegram waiting for her when she goes into lunch, not really daring to hope there will be, but not able to avoid hoping. She comes slowly to the house, lingering so as to put off the moment of disappointment at there being no telegram, to be told by Mr Wilkins that a telegram has arrived for her. But it is from the owner of San Salvatore, Mr Briggs, saying he is passing through the area on his way to Rome and asking if he can see the house and her. Oh, oh, oh, oh, my heart absolutely soared for her when the telegram arrived, I was so sure she was going to be made so happy. And it’s so so so very unfair that the telegram was from Mr Briggs instead, poor poor thing.

Mr Briggs has been thinking fondly of Mrs Arbuthnot, and imagining her in the different rooms in his house, and can’t resist the opportunity to get to know her better. When he arrives, ‘coffee was being drunk in the top garden in the shade of the umbrella pine’. He invites Mrs Arbuthnot to walk around the grounds with him, and he is so interested in all she says and flatters her and indicates how much he admires her, that she begins to feel more relaxed and confident. Mr Briggs is an orphan and an only child and has been lonely, and is wishing to marry and share San Salvatore with a wife. Mrs Fisher is also charmed by Mr Briggs, she is flattered by his polite interest in her and she admires him as a man of property, and she finds herself feeling younger around him and laughing with him, which reminds Mrs Arbuthnot, to her sadness, that she had never yet heard Mrs Fisher laugh. Mr Briggs responds to Mrs Fisher as the grandmother he has never had, and she responds to him in a caring and motherly/grandmotherly way too. Mrs Wilkins is delighted to hear Mrs Fisher chatting and laughing, and she immediately goes over to her and affectionately kisses her. Mrs Fisher is at first offended, but is then touched at the affection behind the gesture, flattered that Mrs Wilkins seems to like her when she had so resolutely disliked Mrs Wilkins. Mr Briggs mentions that he has booked into a hotel in the town while he is in the area, but Mrs Fisher urges him to stay at San Salvatore, to the agreement of the others. Oh, oh, oh, I can’t think of anything more divine and heavenly than to be drinking coffee ‘in the top garden in the shade of the umbrella pine’! And I’m wondering where we’re going with Mr Briggs admiring Mrs Arbuthnot so much, is she actually going to leave her husband and begin a relationship with Mr Briggs? Part of me would like her to be with someone who admires and appreciates and adores her, and I liked seeing how her self-confidence grew due to his admiration, but another part of me thinks that she wouldn’t be totally happy with being with anyone but her husband and it is he who she wants to view her in this way. It’s also nice that we are finally seeing Mrs Fisher become more relaxed and happy.

Mr Briggs falls head over heels in love with Lady Caroline when he first sees her, becoming almost foolish with his complete absorption in her, ignoring the others and unable to stop staring at her. She is annoyed, feeling that she will now have to hide in her room in order to avoid him. Mrs Fisher is saddened to see him so affected, and pities him. Oh dear, I do hope Mrs Arbuthnot isn’t hurt by Mr Briggs shifting his attention from her to Lady Caroline. And it does make me wonder how the book is going to be concluded, especially with Lady Caroline and Mrs Fisher who I kind of forget about in comparison to how much I care for Mrs Arbuthnot and Mrs Wilkins.

Lady Caroline begins to feel angry that she is trapped in her room when everyone else is outdoors in the early evening sunset. She sees from her window that Mr Wilkins is speaking to Mr Briggs, so sneaks out of the front door to one of the seats placed on the bends of the zig-zag path up to the castle. As she sits enjoying the peace, she hears someone toiling up the path and looks up to see Mr Ferdinand Arundel who she knows as a writer of memoirs and who frequently dines at her mother’s house. He apologises for intruding on her here but says that her mother had told him where she was and he was passing through the area on his way to Rome so decided to drop in to see her. It is clear that he is enamoured of her and has come all this way just to see her, which exasperates Lady Caroline, but she reflects that he is an old man of forty so unlikely to have the strength to pursue her as much as the younger Mr Briggs undoubtedly would and that he could provide a barrier for her from Mr Briggs, so invites him to the castle for dinner, at which he is delighted. She asks him to sit with her on the seat and to tell her about how her family is. Later when they return to the castle for dinner she leaves him in the drawing room while she changes for dinner. Omg, omg, omg!!! I cannot say anything more than omg! Well, ok, obviously I can…I am so horrified at this happening, this Mr Arundel must be Mr Arbuthnot! No, no, no, no, I cannot bear Mrs Arbuthnot to be hurt, as desperately hurt and destroyed as she will be by the realisation that her husband has come to San Salvatore for love of another woman, the rejection would be so absolute, she would never recover, to have him ignore her letter would be hurtful enough, but this, no! I am even tempted to just stop reading now rather than see it all happen. But before I decide whether to proceed with the book or not, I must just say how much I loved the image in my mind of the seats placed at the bends of the zig-zag path, I would love to sit there with a good book hearing the sea and looking up from my book at intervals at ‘the quiet water of the little harbour through the pine trunks…the white of the crowding daisies’. At least, I could enjoy that image before Mr blooming Arundel arrived and destroyed everything!

As she gets ready for dinner, Mrs Wilkins is hoping that Lady Caroline may become fond of Mr Briggs. Mrs Arbuthnot is quite complacent about Mr Briggs’ shifted affections to Lady Caroline, she finds it entirely right and understandable, though the joy and fun of being admired still stays with her and makes her feel more alive and self-confident. These feelings make her determined to speak to her husband when she returns home and to tell him that she has had enough of ‘this separate life, this freezing loneliness’. She is ready early for dinner so goes to the drawing room where the fire is lit, and sees her husband there looking out of the window with his back towards her. She is overawed by the fact that he has come to her, ‘the miracle had happened…he needed her, for he had come instantly…he too must have been thinking, longing…he must love her, or why had he come?’ She can barely think and barely talk and indeed is barely able to breathe. She creeps up behind him and then he spins around, and she immediately puts her arms around his neck and whispers that she always knew he would come. Eeek, I had actually begun to hope (really, this was the only way I could convince myself to continue with the book!) that Mr Arundel may not actually be Mr Arbuthnot, as what were the chances really? And then Mrs Arbuthnot walks into the drawing room and sees him, and it is him! Omg, the tension just built and built as she gradually approached him, it is really well written, with the short sentences of her creeping closer and then pausing and then the fire crackling and then her going a step closer and then stopping again…honestly, a murder mystery couldn’t have been written more tensely!

Mr Arbuthnot is completely bewildered to see his wife there and to obviously be expected by her to be there, and is also bewildered with how affectionately and lovingly she is acting towards him. He kisses her and then becomes absorbed by his old feelings of love for her, she was ‘his Rose again’, he feels secure and safe with her, responding to her and repeating back to her how much he missed her and loves her, as she is saying to him, and genuinely feeling these emotions in amongst his astonishment that this is happening in the first place. He is now aware that Lady Caroline means nothing to him compared to his wife. Awww, it’s so lovely to have him respond so lovingly to her and to immediately feel so loving towards her. But I can’t really enjoy it, even though I am really coming quite close to forgiving him already with his other women just for how he has responded to his wife and how it seems they will be happy together in the future, because any minute now Lady Caroline is going to walk in and poor poor Mrs Arbuthnot will be forced to face what her husband has done and no matter how much she loves him now I am sure it will never be enough to protect her from the pain of his betrayal. Omg, I just can’t bear it!

Each person in turn arrives and Mrs Arbuthnot introduces him to them as her husband. But Lady Caroline has not yet arrived, so the others go to the dining room and begin eating, Mrs Fisher saying that Lady Caroline is always late. Mr Arbuthnot is confused again that everyone there seems to expect him. He has also almost forgotten about Lady Caroline, with his renewed feelings of love for his wife, until Mrs Fisher mentions her name and he then becomes alarmed at what will happen, as he had told Lady Caroline that he had come out there to see her so she will likely introduce him to everyone as her friend, and he anticipates how hurt his wife would be. He briefly thinks of running away, but realises that he can’t. They are on the second course before Lady Caroline finally arrives, but Mrs Wilkins swiftly introduces Mr Arbuthnot to her as Rose’s husband and Lady Caroline displays her upper-class refined and accomplished breeding and shows no surprise or reaction at all apart from apologising for being late. Omg, I actually had my hands over my eyes as Lady Caroline came into the dining room, I know that’s ridiculous to be looking at the book through my fingers over my eyes, but it’s honestly how I was, I could just hardly bear to see it all unfold infront of my eyes! And again how the author drew it out, she honestly could have written wonderful thrillers, with each person coming through the door in turn and Mrs Arbuthnot introducing her husband to them, and behind it all my dread (and his dread too, of course) of when will Lady Caroline arrive? It almost became unbearable, it was so drawn out!

Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot and Lady Caroline sit outside in the late evening, Lady Caroline feeling that she had come here to escape love and yet it is all around her, and she feels small and alone and views herself as ‘a spoilt, a sour, a suspicious, and a selfish spinster’. She still feels annoyed at Mr Briggs for adoring her and scornful of his undignified infatuation, especially as she feels he has brain and character and is a kind person. When she steps away from the others, Mr Arbuthnot hurries over to her, thanking her for how she acted at dinner, saying she is ‘as decent as a man’ which makes her laugh. She sees Mr Briggs across the garden and feels a wave of gratitude for him enabling her to stay at San Salvatore and experience its beauty and peace and enabling her to meet Mrs Wilkins, and she goes straight up to him saying that she owes him so much. He is surprised and begins to say how much he owes her, but she cuts across him begging him to just be ordinary and telling him that he is worth 50 of her. Mr and Mrs Wilkins go inside to join Mrs Fisher, as she feels that Mrs Fisher is thinking about her loneliness as an old childless woman who hasn’t any friends. She goes up and kisses Mrs Fisher, who responds warmly to her, holding out her hand and pressing her cheek to Mrs Wilkins’ cheek, feeling safe with her. Mrs Wilkins decides then that she will be Mrs Fisher’s friend and will care for her over the coming years. Mrs Wilkins also comments on Lady Caroline and Mr Briggs being a couple, stating that she sees it happening. In their final week at San Salvatore, blossoming scented acacias replace the wisteria. 

Hmmm, well, I had wondered how the story was going to end. I like it ending with the garden, and it seems fitting that the wisteria mentioned in the original advert has now faded and been replaced by something else beautiful, I guess this change in the garden perhaps also signifies the change in the people too. I’m a bit surprised at Lady Caroline and Mr Briggs getting together, I struggle to believe in that somehow, although I guess it hadn’t actually happened by the end of the book, it was just Mrs Wilkins’ premonition that it would happen. I am sad that their lives at San Salvatore have ended, part of me wanted Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot to just stay there in heaven forever. And I obviously wonder how things went for them when they arrived home, if they (and their husbands) stayed in the altered states aided/created by San Salvatore or if they (and their husbands) gradually reverted to how they originally were. I’d obviously love to think that Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot stayed as their altered selves and were happy, and weren’t miserable again. I guess the book had to have a conclusion, it couldn’t just continue with them being affected by the beauty of San Salvatore and feeling free and happy there, but I think that was my favourite part of the book so I had kind of wished it could have just continued like that. And I think that as they had to leave San Salvatore, then I kind of wanted to briefly see them back in their real lives, hopefully still happy but definitely with regular content between each other, so I could feel reassured that that support they’d felt from and towards each other was continuing. 

It was a stunningly beautiful book to read, beautiful language and descriptions of beautiful scenery and flowers, and the author also has a beautiful ability to delve deep into her characters’ feelings with a beautiful delicate touch. Just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, that’s the word I most often use when I think of this book! It feels like a magical book, a really rare and special and precious thing to read.

I see Wikipedia says that San Salvatore is based on Castello Brown in Portofino, where Von Arnim stayed for a month with a friend, oooh, I’m going to have to look at pictures of that place to see if it’s as beautiful as San Salvatore is in my mind, and probably then dream about going there! In fact, I couldn’t wait and have immediately looked at pictures of it and read up about it, and it is gorgeous! And it’s now a museum, so if I was ever lucky enough to go to Portofino then I could pay an entrance fee and actually go inside, which is an amazing thought! I also see there have been a few films made of this book, and one which was filmed at Castello Brown, hmmm, I’m torn if I want to see the film or not, I wonder if it would disappoint me if it wasn’t as I imagine it all in my head.

I also wonder if I’d be disappointed if I read another of Von Arnim’s books, could any of them be this special? But then maybe they are and therefore there are lots of similarly lovely books awaiting me. I see her book Vera is mentioned alongside The Enchanted April and was written only a year before, so perhaps that would be a good one to try. And with the mention of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House with Mrs Fisher remembering her feelings about Poor Jo, and with the remembrance I had of this book from thinking of Mrs Pardiggle, then I feel it’s about time I re-read this wonderful book, and maybe even Our Mutual Friend too with my fondness for Mr Boffin’s horse, tee hee. And I am tempted to read some more Barbara Pym as well, as I think she has a similar style to Von Armin, being observational and poignant and gently humorous, and I have her books Quartet in Autumn and Some Tame Gazelle on my shelf waiting to be read.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim available on Amazon
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