Book report #4 (2019)

The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Armin. Pub 1922

I’ve been thinking about this book (as in thinking about reading it) for several years. I remember the film from 1991, and although I have not seen it since the late 90s, I recall that it was part of the era of “period” films based on EM Forster novels (e.g. Howards End) – turn of the 20th century stories, sometimes set in gauzy Italian villas, where manners and misunderstandings lead to love and heartbreak and redemption, with just a hint of emancipation around the edges.

The Enchanted April is almost the perfect exemplar of this genre. It must have been quite a shocking concept at the time – four women of different ages and classes venturing to Italy for a holiday on their own, leaving behind husbands and families for no purpose other than idleness and beauty. Of course, such notions seem quaint – and to some, worthy of censure – but they are a reflection of the time and so worthier more of remembrance and celebration than of dismissal.

The language in the novel is a bit difficult in places, with longish sentences that take a while to get to the point. But again, that was likely in keeping with times and styles that the author would have known and aspired to. The story is fairly clever at getting reconciliation and redemption and happiness for all concerned, and concludes with the promise of continued enchantment for all the players.

Within those difficult sentences are some truly delicious pieces of writing. The society girl, wanting to reflect on her life away from the hustle and bustle everyone who expects her to be happy all the time: “…she had looked out into the gulf of the night, and it had suddenly seemed as if her life had been a noise all about nothing.” A man complimenting that same girl near the end of the story: “Now I adore you because you’re not only as beautiful as a dream but as decent as a man.” Only a woman from that era and society could have written that – would have seen what and how society valued beauty and decency, that disparity that suffrage would likely never overcome (and perhaps reflects the real and true difference in the sexes).

I truly enjoyed this book. The descriptions of the warmth and beauty and aromas of Italy in April are truly enchanting. It is likely a bygone era, as I’d be surprised to find that such a world exists any more, but it was lovely to visit it and imagine the glorious morning views and the smell of wisteria and acacia clinging to it all.

#2 – a book published before 1939
#7 – a book by a female author
#8 – a book that has been made into a film (several, actually, plus a play, a musical and a radio series).
#12 – a book set in a place I’ve never been
#24 – a book by an author I’ve never read before

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