The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

An ideal book for the sweet-toothed reader. It quickly got a bit too charming for my taste – Lady Caroline’s literally incredible beauty and Mrs Wilkins’s feyness are neck and neck in the “Tonstant Weader fwowed up” stakes – but there was enough astringency and nods of recognition in the writing to keep me going.

Published 1922, it’s about a pair of weary Hampstead women who impulsively reply to an advertisement to rent an Italian castello for the month of April. It proves to be a fairy tale realm where dying marriages are resurrected and sour old women turn into sweet old ladies.

What I did enjoy were the descriptions of the sooty London rain and the sense of a frugal middle-class life: those passages spoke loud and clear. Also very evocative was the impact of a Mediterranean spring on the sun-starved, drizzle-inured English psyche. Tell me about it. The writing may be overdone and repetitive, but only someone who has spent a winter in northern Europe can really appreciate the scent of wisteria and freesias, the vivid colours, and the warmth of the sun on your skin!

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