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The Pastor's Wife

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  338 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Ingeborg Bullivant decides spontaneously to join a tour to Lucerne-and returns engaged. Yet her new life as a rural Prussian pastor's wife restricts her as much as her old; and when the dashing artist Ingram appears, musing about wondrous Italy, wanderlust tempts her a second time. Von Arnim's accomplished and comic novel is based on her own first marriage and life in prov ...more
Virago Modern Classics, 492 pages
Published December 6th 1987 (first published 1914)
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I picked this up, probably just because it was cheap but was left wondering why I hadn't heard of Elizabeth von Arnim before.

The novel has a deceptively light tone that enables her to talk easily about troubled and difficult marriages - this is a book written in the early years of the 20th century as well as a book that drew on her experience of her own marriage.

The story is fairly straight forward. Young woman, the daughter of a bishop, is proposed to while on holiday and because she can't mana
Diane Barnes
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth von Arnim has that elusive quality, wit. Unlike humor or books written to amuse and entertain, wit must be appreciated through the lens of the reader's own experiences. You read a sentence or paragraph, nodding your head and chuckling because you get it. And you feel intelligent because of that, knowing that not everyone will. This whole book was that way, as was "Elizabeth and her German Garden", the previous von Arnim book I read. Added to that, most of her books contain autobiograph ...more
Look at the title—this is a story about the pastor’s wife, Ingeborg. Before becoming the pastor’s wife, she was the Bishop’s daughter. Later, she is also a famed portrait painter’s muse and a traveler. The question to be answered is if she will ever be her own master Must she always be possessed or under the control of another?

When we first meet Ingeborg, she is twenty two, lives in a small, provincial English town and has a toothache. She will travel up to London to fix that tooth. This will le
I've never read such an apparently mild book that made me so wildly angry. Von Arnim is becoming a personal hero.

(Longer review written at a greater distance included in my fall/winter roundup on my blog:
This is not the book I planned to read for Elizabeth Von Armin Day, but for some reason I picked it up, I began to read and I had to keep going. The story makes some very serious points, but because Elizabeth Armin writes with such warm and wit, because she writes from experience, it is wonderfully readable.

Ingeborg Bullivant was the daughter of a bishop and, because her mother was an invalid and her sister was a great beauty who was expected to marry well, it was expected that she would be the
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vintage-novels
This was my second von Arnim read, and I am rather amazed at this author's ability to confront complex women's issues and still maintain a light touch. By that I mean that the heavy issues are not confronted head-on, but are wrapped in layers of humor, heady descriptions of nature, and forays into art and literature. I find I need time to digest it all after closing the book.

In this novel, a young woman goes from the protected and stifling cocoon of her Father's home (an English Bishop), to the
May 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I enjoyed Ingeborg's brief escapes. Women going quietly about their work might suddenly break out and do surprising things. People you take for granted might have an inner life you never imagined. von Arnim has a predominantly negative view of men in most of her writing - it seems to have been her life experience - but it gets tired for me. Ingeborg's work to develop her mind through reading, her attempts to break her children out of their mute acceptance of what is, and her sheer joy at seeing ...more
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a roller coaster ride this was! I was so surprised at ever turn. What utterly perfect and marvelous character development. What exquisite changes in points of view. This is exactly what I read Elizabeth von Arnim for. She makes me smile. Sometimes she sort of breaks my heart. She never bores me. What a fabulously unexpected ending.
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
English woman Ingeborg is a young bishop's daughter, charming and cheerful. The year is approximately 1910 or so. As the book opens Ingeborg is trundled off by her parents to London where she is supposed to get a toothache fixed, the country dental situation being not so good. She has a little wad of cash and will supposedly need a week for the dentistry and recovery. But instead of taking a week, her toothache is fixed fairly instantly, she feels utterly marvelous, so she starts wandering aroun ...more
Laura McDonald
Apr 24, 2011 rated it liked it
I believe I am getting to the root of what I love and don't love about Von Arnim's writing. I love her autobiographical and first-person POV work. I love her insights into life, love, and nature. I love her optimism and happiness and boundless joy at small pleasures. I love that she loves to be alone with her thoughts, and she actually thinks and sees right to the bottom of things.

I don't love her third-person and omniscient POV work. I didn't know exactly why until I read The Pastor's Wife and
Lytton Bell
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The writing sometimes almost reaches the poetic eloquence of a D.H. Lawrence - maybe this was simply a shining moment historically for English Literature. I had to give it five stars because she pulled off a miraculously tragic ending without inspiring utter hopeless agony in the reader. Genius trick. The characters were so subtle, complicated and interesting - how did she do that. Especially how Ingram turned slowly from hot sauce to dry rot in such a way as to convince you he had always been a ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spiritual, kindle
I am puzzled about how to consider this book. On the one hand, the main character is over-powered by everyone else in the book except her preternaturally good children (who utterly creeped me out, innocent as they were), but has, as it were, two moments of happy personal strength (and it is strength), one at the beginning and one at the end. The rest of the time is a struggle which is hard for the reader to "watch." The ending is a sort of triumphant tragedy, and I don't know that I will ever kn ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mady by: Florbela Barreto
Shelves: 2015
Oh Ingeborg, how silly and naive can you be? :)

Elizabeth Von Arnim writes about charming characters. But the funny thing is that her books make me try to picture her, the writer, the voice behind her characters. I try to imagine which of her flaws, which of her strengths she gives to each of her characters.

Only down side for me on this book was some slowness of the plot development, some lack of action that created the need for me to read other books in the meantime. Regardless, I was happy to r
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Von Arnim so beautifully captures the human spirit in all its happiness and pain that it feels as fresh as if it were written today. This novel is an emotional roller coaster, with dry humor often the result of conflicting social norms or values, yet also the setting of agonizing verbal and physical abuse - which felt so real it was almost hard to read.

Nevertheless, I would read it all again because it was so beautifully written.
Jun 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I am amazed at the lightness of touch of this book. It is witty, sometimes downright hilarious (for example the proposal scene) and joyful and yet manages to reveal (without any preachiness or tut-tutting) the crushing effect of the inequality that dominated women's lives. It's beautifully written. I recommend it.
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christianity, dud
The Pastor's Wife (1914 fiction) was a sad commentary on people in the church who haven't a clue what it means to follow Christ. Every character was selfish to the core. It was terribly hard to like a book in which none of the principle characters have any redeeming qualities.
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A Lovely, long Von Arnim novel which deals ith marriage, motherhood and the subjugation of women.

My full review here:
Nov 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This is actually one of von Arnim’s darker works in my opinion. ‘Vera’ takes the cake on that front. But when you read passages like what is below…it made me apprehensive when I was reading stuff like this (Ingeborg, one of the main protagonists, during and after childbirth).
• “And still later, when Ingeborg had left off pretending or trying to be anything at all, when courage and unselfishness and stoicism and a desire to please Robert — who was Robert? — were like toys for drawing-room games,
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This isn't my favourite but it's very enjoyable even although I did see how it was going to end sometime before getting there.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book with its exploration of innocence, and the convoluted relationships in which we in-web ourselves. Ingeborg is a victim of societal conventions, and even her final act of free will is layered with conflict and compromise. Strictly controlled daughter of a haughty Anglican bishop and his hypochondriac wife, Ingeborg acts on an impulse after visiting a dentist in London (SPOILER) and hops on a cruise ship for the first adventure of her life. (SPOILER) She meets and agrees to marry ...more
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel was published in 1914 and is another of the genre examining the stultifying effects of forcing women into a very narrow and defined role. A young English woman, raised by her father "The Bishop" to be nothing more than a helpful adjunct and possession of her father, sneaks away on a freedom spree to visit Lucerne when she is supposed to be in London visiting the dentist. She meets a German pastor/farmer and is swept away by his attentions. She resolves to marry him against her father' ...more
Pixi Jo
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The title of this book makes it sound like it might be something about a saucy minx, married to a fuddy-duddy man of the cloth, off and about on naughty adventures with all the hulking, shirtless lads of the village!

BWAHAHAHA!!! Not even close!

Actually this is a very beautifully written, witty, sparkly tale of the life of Ingeborg, a non-descript English lass who has a whole world of strange and interesting things happen to her, mostly, it seems, without either her will or consent but she's game
Jamie Collins
This is my third Von Arnim novel, and she seems to have a theme: fanciful, lonely young women married to men who care little about them. Here Ingeborg is a bishop’s daughter, raised in utter oppression, who accidentally becomes engaged to a Prussian pastor. If you allow that being ignored is somewhat better than being oppressed, then her life improves when she becomes the pastor’s wife.

This is equal parts amusing and sad. Ingeborg receives love only when she behaves in a certain way, and since s
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it
The Pastor's Wife had a lot of good moments - Elizabeth Von Armin has a style of writing that is filled with hope and humor and beauty and these were present in the novel. However, I was frustrated by the main character's naiveté and saddened that there wasn't much she could do to change her situation given the time period. This is not a book that has a happily-ever-after and the ending is so abrupt that I felt cheated.
Beryl Cook
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I read this tedious story as one of a trilogy of stories in The Enchanted April : A Trilogy. I absolutely loved The Enchanted April, which I read the first time as an audio book. The next 2 stories were interminably tedious. In this story, most of the writing, to me, went on and on with such lengthy self contemplation that I was going to give up on it but thought I’d stick around to see where it ultimately led. It was very disappointing and a waste of my time.
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking. For any woman who has been dependent on a man (father, husband) and been neglected and disappointed; she will be able to relate to this book. Women are much more self-reliant today yet even so, the awareness of another is important in a healthy relationship.

I can’t help but wonder if writing this story was cathartic for von Arnim.
Sonia Gensler
Von Arnim has such a lovely way with language -- her prose is captivating and Ingeborg is a delightful character. However, the subject matter of this novel is darker and more upsetting than I'd anticipated.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it
A little tough for contemporary attitudes about the role of women, but still a well-told story of an true innocent whose naivete is rock solid. Lots of humor, particularly with regard to the minor characters. It was an interesting read.
Mary Beth
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful, thought-provoking book!

Reminds me of Madame Bovary and other feminine awakening novels. Only here the consequences are very different. I liked it very much.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will fight anyone who says von Arnim was not a feminist.
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Elizabeth, Countess Russell, was a British novelist and, through marriage, a member of the German nobility, known as Mary Annette Gräfin von Arnim.

Born Mary Annette Beauchamp in Sydney, Australia, she was raised in England and in 1891 married Count Henning August von Arnim, a Prussian aristocrat, and the great-great-great-grandson of King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia.

She had met von Arnim durin

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