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Search tags: Elizabeth-von-Arnim
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text 2020-04-26 17:39
A wonderful read (and reread)
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim

I've read The Enchanted April before, probably 20 years ago, and then again about 6 years ago. It's hard to justice to the delightfulness that is this book in a review. I'll just, briefly, give it a try.

 

Written during the interwar period, the book has a surprisingly modern feel. The main protagonist, Lotty, is the struggling wife of a solicitor, Mellersh Wilkiins, Lotty is not at all the sort of wife that Mellersh wanted - he wanted someone with the right social skills to help his career along. I spent much of the book wondering what on earth could have possessed Mellersh to marry her given her unsuitability.

 

We also have Rose Arbuthnot, who is married to an extremely successful author of fictionalized biographies of king's courtesans. Rose is deeply religious, and is bothered by the fact that her husband's financial success has been built on "sin". This somewhat irrational preoccupation, along with either a miscarriage or the death of a very young child, has destroyed the relationship between husband and wife.

 

The book begins when Lotty sees an advertisement in the newspaper to lease a castle in Italy for the month of April, which is addressed "to those who appreciate wistaria and sunshine..." Lotty and Rose, strangers to one another, are drawn to the advertisement and resolve to take the castle and spend the month of April in Italy. In order to decrease their costs further, they advertise for two additional women to join them.

 

This book is as effervescent as champagne and as insubstantial as a soap bubble. San Salvatore, the castle, is delightful. The changes that come over the four women as they luxuriate in the gardens overlooking the Mediterranean Sea come at different paces, but they do arrive. Lotty loses her careworn outlook, Rose lightens up, Caroline finds peace, and Mrs. Fischer, the most calcified of the bunch who has spent decades pining for the past, embraces life again. 

 

“All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkles in full flower, and she could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face. It was wistaria. Wistaria and sunshine . . . she remembered the advertisement. Here indeed were both in profusion. The wistaria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour. The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees, and cherry-trees. The cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossom--lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show. And beneath these trees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender, and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea. Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers....”

 

This is a perfect book to read in April, when my garden has just started to come back to life.

 

I have Elizabeth and her German Garden on my TBR cart. It feels like a good time to read it.

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text 2020-04-25 23:36
Read-a-thon so far
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim
After the Funeral - Agatha Christie
Tenant for Death - Cyril Hare

Well, my low-key read-a-thon has resulted three books so far, and I also made a batch of delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies.

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text 2019-06-30 19:28
Next up for the 4th of July!
A Fountain Filled With Blood - Julia Spencer-Fleming
Orient Express - Graham Greene,Christopher Hitchens
Elizabeth and Her German Garden - Elizabeth von Arnim
Well-Schooled in Murder - Elizabeth George

I am reading A Fountain Filled With Blood with Wanda over the 4th because it's also set over the 4th of July.

 

Orient Express is the next book on my Classics Club Vol. 2 list. My Virago copy of Elizabeth and Her German Garden, which I selected off of the Crowdsourced list, arrived yesterday, and Well-Schooled in Murder came up on my ebook holds so it's downloaded and ready to go!

 

Hopefully I will be able to wedge them into my BLopoly game as well!

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text 2018-11-22 18:46
24 Festive Tasks: Door 9 - Thanksgiving, Task 1 (Favorite Books of 2018)
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim
The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Sharyn McCrumb
Their Lost Daughters - Joy Ellis,Richard Armitage
Harry Potter Box Set: The Complete Collection - J.K. Rowling

2018 was an excellent reading year for me, both in terms of quantity and quality -- yet, among the many great books I newly read this year, these stood out in particular:

 

1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun -- a multiple-perspective inside view of the Biafra conflict that manages to be brutally honest, insightful, saddening and poetical all at the same time.  Review HERE.

 

2. Elizabeth von Arnim: The Solitary Summer -- in many ways the exact counterpoint to Half of a Yellow Sun: a largely autobiographical ode to reading, and to the peace and quiet of a summer garden ... with more than an occasional sidelight on early 20th century Prussian country life and mores.  Status updates:

3 / 190 pages ~~ 9 / 190 pages ~~ 14 / 190 pages ~~ 22 / 190 pages ~~ 30 / 190 pages ~~ 41 / 190 pages ~~ 46 / 190 pages ~~ 55 / 190 pages ~~ 62 / 190 pages ~~ 65 / 190 pages ~~ 67 / 190 pages ~~ 69 / 190 pages ~~ 83 / 190 pages ~~ 87 / 190 pages ~~ 89 / 190 pages ~~ 93 / 190 pages ~~ 95 / 190 pages ~~ 106 / 190 pages ~~ 110 / 190 pages ~~ 126 / 190 pages ~~ 131 / 190 pages ~~ 133 / 190 pages ~~ 140 / 190 pages ~~ 147 / 190 pages.

(An eminently quotable book, as you can see.)

 

And joint honors for No. 3:

3.a) Sharyn McCrumb: The Ballad of Frankie Silver -- an examination of the death penalty as administered in the Appalachians as only Sharyn McCrumb could have written it, contrasting the historical case of 18-year-old Frankie Silver (the first white woman to be hanged in the area) with a fictional modern counterpart.  Like Half of a Yellow Sun, equal parts brutal, saddening and lyrical.  Review HERE.

 

3.b) Joy Ellis: Their Lost Daughters -- modern crime fiction as it ought to be: very (darkly) atmospheric, but without even an ounce of sentimentality; with compelling characters, an intricate plot, a great, not-yet-overexploited setting and a satisfying conclusion.  Review HERE.

 

Honorable mention goes to my reread of this year -- J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, which I fell in love with all over again ... to the point of splurging on the new hardcover set and the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

 


And lest anybody point out that this is, in sum, vastly more than the "top three" books called for in the task: I'm a Libra -- do you know what an effort it was to even narrow it down this much??  Besides, I'm counting the Harry Potter series as one book, so there ...

 

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review 2018-09-20 15:09
Enchanted April
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim

Yeah, I know I said I would not post here anymore but I wanted you all to know I've kept at reading Elizabeth's stuff. How did I not know about this author before? I'm still trying to wrap my arms around the fact that for a couple of years anyway, her and I were alive at the same time.  

 

I recently finished Enchanted April (it's a novel of hers but it was easy to imagine her as a character in it.) No one hardly comments on reviews on Goodreads (I think they're all hung up on their own shit), so I thought to post it here where I recall there were some people who liked Elizabeth. 

 

 

MY review:

Okay this is undoubtedly my favorite read of 2018.
Now I can watch the movie!!!! YAY!
Ms von Arnim was probably the best writer of her day, bar none, as her works are just as readable today in 2018 as they were in the late 1890's. As I've tried to read the so called classics of the early 1900s, I've found the writing of most lacking . . . dated actually. 
Ms von Arnim is a marvelous character developer and produces characters the reader embraces. I loved every one of the characters in this book.
As my previous reads of her works were those in which she was the main character, I was surprised this was a novel and not necessarily based on her. Or was it? Truth be told I thought the character of Scrap bore a resemblance to the person I've come to know as Elizabeth.

 

PS: I did watch the movie the same night and found it pretty true to the book. All of the actors were well cast and they mirrored how I pictured them. Some things were changed slightly as the book is mainly switching heads to get their thoughts and I know that's hard to show on screen. Plus, I thought the scenery (So much a part of the book) was lacking. Frankly, I'm surprised Hollywood tackled this at all. It's fairly recent (2011) so I'm surprised they didn't try to update the plot with terrorists or super powers. Thankfully they left it in the 1920s. I recommend the book (first of course) and the movie.

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