Somewhere on a remote Italian island there is a castle covered in wisteria and freesia, with a blossoming Judas tree standing watch over the courtyard like a trusted footman.
For Lotty and Rose, this castle beckons as an escape from their unhappy lives as unappreciated wives.
One dreary day in London at the women’s club, Lotty and Rose see an advertisement for a castle to let for the month of April in sunny, enchanting Italy. The women jump at the chance for a vacation from their husbands and find two other women to join them in this magical paradise.
“The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim is the perfect book to read in this dreary February weather. The descriptive prose invites the reader into the gardens of San Salvatore, a fictional medieval castle in the Mediterranean. All of the foliage surrounding the castle is a glorious metaphor for the development of lives and how people change.
I was hooked from the first page when I read about Lotty, the shy and flighty wife of an ambitious solicitor, Mellersh. Mellersh does not appreciate Lotty’s optimism and has forgotten why he married her in the first place.
Rose is described as the “disappointed Madonna,” unhappy in her marriage because her husband has chosen a profession of which she doesn’t approve. These women become unlikely friends in the planning of their trip to Italy.
Through advertisement, Lotty and Rose find two other women to share the expense of the trip: Caroline Dester, a young socialite, and Mrs. Fisher, a woman of advanced years who is shocked by the other three young ladies’ lack of propriety.
This is a story about love, companionship, and having someone to appreciate you. Rose, in particular, “passionately longed to be important to someone again . . . privately important just to one other person.”
Each of the four women is rejuvenated by the beauty of her surroundings, and each finds hope in her own way. As Mrs. Fisher decides, “As long as one was alive, one was not dead—obviously . . . and development, change, ripening, were life.”
The reason I chose to write about this book now is because I recommend it for a great book group selection for this month or next.
In March, the Department of Theatre and Dance at BYU–Idaho will be presenting the play version of “The Enchanted April.” What a wonderful opportunity to read the book and compare it to the play.
Wednesday, March 28 there will be a special talk-back after the performance, in which the actors, designers, and director will discuss the play and the book as well. All book groups are welcome and encouraged to attend that night. If your book group would like to attend and have a talk-back on a different evening, you may contact The Department of Theatre and Dance at 496-4820 to request a special session.
The play will run from March 22–24, and from March 27–30, with 7:30 p.m. performances. Be sure to arrive thirty minutes early. Tickets go on sale two weeks prior to the performances.
I encourage you to read this enchanting romantic comedy. It made me laugh out loud, and it gave me hope in the healing power of love. What better way to spend a Rexburg winter than to visit the Mediterranean and enter the world of “The Enchanted April.”