“To those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine. Small medieval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.”
Despite being written almost a hundred years ago the book, The Enchanted April, is just as enchanting today. Four very different women, all unknown to each in dreary post WW1 Britain, answer an ad for an Italian villa. Two are married but taken for granted by their husbands, one is single and beautiful but tired of grabby men, and one is a widow facing a sad lonely old age. They have nothing in common other than they are starved for beauty and love, and for the fresh air and sunshine of the Italian coast.
I watched the movie first, before I read the book, which is what I would recommend. The movie is from 1992 and while film quality has improved tremendously since then, it is still a lovely period drama, (and if I’m ever reincarnated I want to come back with straight black bobbed hair).
My Good-reads review:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I absolutely loved this book, but I had watched the movie first. A timeless tale with a lovely story line and such vivid descriptions of flowers, gardens and beautiful countryside that you almost felt like you were there.
I ordered the book because it is one of those timeless classics you simply have to own. It was a bestseller in it’s day, 1923, and was based on a month long trip the author, Elizabeth von Arnim, made with her husband to the village of Portofino, Italy, which soon became a famous tourist destination because of the success of the book. They stayed at the Castello Brown, (now a museum), which is where the movie was filmed seventy years later.
It’s such a charming story, that it might inspire you to grab three of your girlfriends and go off on your own Italian adventure. Who wouldn’t want to live la dolce vita?
Of course in the book the villa came complete with all the necessary servants, so hiring a chef to do the cooking would be the sensible thing to do. (You could invite Amal for tea, she’s British and may be in need of a cuppa and a break from the bambinos). Isn’t that part of the attraction of period pieces, there was always someone to prepare the meals, wash the dishes, care for the children…..and look after the garden.
It’s not surprising that there were such lovely descriptions of the flowers and grounds in the book, as the author’s first bestseller was Elizabeth and Her German Garden in 1898. I have not read that one yet, as I plan on reading it outside on the deck whenever it gets warm enough, as inspiration for gardening season. But I did read her book, The Solitary Summer, last summer which I enjoyed also, which concerned her need for solitude and beauty in the countryside with her April, May and June babies. Her first best seller was published anonymously, and the subsequent ones as by the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden. Because these books are old and often out of print they are best ordered online.
Perhaps there is something about being in such a lovely setting that inspires love. In the book their husbands became more appreciative, although no one runs off and has an affair, (it was a more decorous time), well only the single one. I remember reading once in a book on Italy about a medical condition called, Stendhal’s Syndrome, which is an emotional reaction to too much loveliness. A handful of tourists are treated for this every year in Florence, having been overwhelmed by an excess of beauty. Finally a medical condition we can all aspire too! Of course we don’t have to go to Italy to experience beauty in our lives – it is all around us, we just have to pay attention. Is it possible to surround yourself with an excess of loveliness, especially in a world which so often seems full of evil, hate, and ugliness? Perhaps not, but it is an admirable goal to choose to focus on what is lovely in the world, and so much better for your health! Buona giornata!
Quote of the Day: “It is their manners as a whole, their natural ways, bonhomie, the great art of being happy which is here practiced with this added charm, that the good people do not know that it is an art, the most difficult of all.” (Stendhal on Italy)
Song of the Day: April Love by Pat Boone
Postscript: This week I received a copy of Frances Mayes newly released novel, Women in Sunlight, which sounds like it could be a remake of Enchanted April, albeit with older characters. Certainly, the writer of Under the Tuscan Sun is well qualified to write about Italy, but I will reserve judgement until after I have read it. Edited to add: Not recommended at all – a big disappointment).