Book Review – The Enchanted April

Book Review – The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim

Title – The Enchanted April

Genre – Literary Fiction

Author – Elizabeth von Arnim

First published – 1922

Edition reviewed – 1986 (Virago)

Enjoyment rating – 8/10

There are no spoilers in this review

*       *       *

Do you like sugar? You’ve really got to like sugar if you’re going to enjoy this novel. I might try to excuse this on the grounds that the writing is light and refined, but so is the sugar in candy floss…

Too, some passages are repetitious; we are told certain aspects of people’s characters several times in the course of a few pages. They’re important, but do we really need them hammering home?

So why do I give it an enjoyment rating of 8/10?

First and foremost, it’s a good story well told. The author has plotted it very carefully; indeed it’s as carefully plotted as an Agatha Christie murder mystery. There is no murder, of course, but the same attention to detail is used to highlight the way the different characters think. We are also led to see how these character differences which were miserable in London, were of little or no concern in the romantic setting of the castle of San Salvatore.

Which brings me to my second reason for enjoying the novel; I found the characters both sympathetic and credible. There is tension between them; they are different types of people. The author has taken a lot of trouble to ensure they are consistent. I cared about the characters, which is one of the best possible hooks for holding your reader.

The descriptive writing, especially about the flowers surrounding the castle, is a delight, evoking both the sumptuous visual impact and the gorgeous scents of the flowers.

There is comedy, too. One scene had me giggling at the mental image conjured up by the author.

And throughout the plot, the characters and their development, the descriptive writing and the humour, the author is gently nudging us to consider our prejudices. And it is that element that takes this out of the romantic fiction genre and places it firmly in the literary fiction genre. It has the long aftertaste of a good wine.   

All in all, while this is quite a contrived novel, and very much of its period, and (I can’t stress this too much) it’s sweet, nevertheless it is both an enjoyable read, and a novel which asks questions of the reader.

I can recommend it.

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