Gabrielle Dubois's Reviews > The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
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bookshelves: 20th-century, female-authors

"Oh, but in a bitter wind to have nothing on and know there never will be anything on and you going to get colder and colder till at last you die of it—that's what it was like, living with somebody who didn't love one."
That’s why Lotty Wilkins decides, one day, to use her savings to take holidays in a medieval castle in Italy, near the sea, and share the rent of this wonderful place with three other English women whom she meets them by newspaper classifieds.

Of course, the castle, the view on the sea, the mountains around, the flowers of the gardens are amazing, beautiful, divine. But what makes that this place will change Lotty’s life, and the one of the other women, is that they are, at last, ready to be happy, ready to change their lives, each one at her time, it’s their will to change. One must decide to be happy, then the world around becomes beautiful:
“When Mrs. Wilkins woke next morning she lay in bed a few minutes before getting up and opening the shutters. What would she see out of her window? A shining world, or a world of rain? But it would be beautiful; whatever it was would be beautiful."

Few details bothered me, like, it’s the very beginning of April in Italy — fig fruits will be matured end of August or September — and the author writes:
“the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell of figs”
I went down in my garden, to breath the fig leaves of my fig tree: it smells nothing, at least not figs, that’s what I thought. I know I focus sometimes on tiny details…!

This said, the author has very well observed her characters’ lives. Each woman knows that something in their life goes wrong, but until they decided to go to Italy, none of them wanted to think about it: they had closed their eyes on their lives:
“For years she had taken care to have no time to think.”
But so far, see this fact is just the first step:
“San Salvatore (the castle) had taken her carefully built-up semblance of happiness away from her and given her nothing in exchange.”

The stories of these women, are stories of inner quest. But when you’ve already done it —getting rid of all what was wrong in your childhood and education; realize who you really are and what you really want — even if you still don’t have what you want yet, it’s no use reading again and again about this subject, unless…

Unless you let yourself carried by the story, the flowers fragrances, the deep blue of the Italian sea and sky, the sharp British humour, love, and some well thought quotes:
“How warm, though, things like admiration and appreciation made one feel, how capable of really deserving them, how different, how glowing. They seemed to quicken unsuspected faculties into life.”
Once again, it’s something I do for a long time now, starting with my children: I’ve always told them they’re beautiful and intelligent, so that they feel beautiful and intelligent. (Of course, I think what I say, which is easier: my children are the best! Forgive me, I’m a mother!)
Unless you wish you were in Italy, having time to do what seems nothing, but what is what we should have time to do:
“The women sat on the low wall at the end of the top garden after dinner, and watched the enormous moon moving slowly over the place where Shelley had lived his last months just on a hundred years before.”
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Reading Progress

May 28, 2018 – Started Reading
June 3, 2018 – Shelved
June 3, 2018 – Shelved as: 20th-century
June 3, 2018 – Finished Reading
September 15, 2018 – Shelved as: female-authors

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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Gabrielle Dubois « Vivre avec quelqu’un qui ne vous aime pas, c’est comme se trouver toute nue dans le vent d’hiver et mourir de froid petit à petit. »
C’est pourquoi Lotty Wilkins décide un jour d’utiliser toutes ses économies pour prendre des vacances dans un château médiéval surplombant la mer, en Italie. Afin de réduire ses dépenses, elle passe une annonce dans le journal pour trouver trois autres colocataires femmes.

Bien sûr, le château, la vue sur la mer, les montagnes autour, les fleurs dans les jardins sont incroyables, merveilleux, divins. Mais ce qui fait que cet endroit va changer les vies de ces quatre femmes, c’est leur propre volonté de changer ; c’est qu’elles se sentiront prêtes, chacune en son temps, à accepter de changer elles-mêmes et changer les choses autour d’elles :
« Quand Mrs Wilkins se réveilla le lendemain matin, elle paressa au lit quelques minutes avant d’ouvrir les volets. Que verrait-elle de sa fenêtre ? La pluie, le soleil ? Qu’importe ! À travers cette fenêtre, le monde serait beau, forcément beau. »
Quelques détails m’ont gênée tel :
« Les feuilles des figuiers étaient toute juste assez grandes pour qu’on sentît l’odeur des figues. »
On est en avril en Italie, les figues mûriront foin août, début septembre, et moi, j’ai dû attendre le lendemain matin pour aller dans mon jardin vérifier si les feuilles de mon figuier sentaient la figue, car on est à la même époque de l’année que le livre. Résultat, les feuilles de figuier ne sentent pas la figue, c’est ce que je pensais !

Ceci dit, l'auteur a très bien observé la vie de ses personnages. Chaque femme sait que quelque chose ne va pas dans sa vie, mais jusqu'à ce qu'elles décident d'aller en Italie, aucune d'entre elles ne voulait y penser, elles avaient fermé les yeux sur leur vie :
"Pendant des années, elle avait pris soin de ne pas avoir le temps de réfléchir."
Ce rendre compte de cela n’est pourtant que le premier pas :
"San Salvatore (le château) lui avait enlevé son semblant de bonheur et ne lui avait rien donné en échange."

Les histoires de ces femmes sont des histoires de quête intérieure. Mais quand vous l'avez déjà fait – vous débarrasser de tout ce qui n'allait pas dans votre enfance et votre éducation ; réaliser qui vous êtes vraiment et ce que vous voulez vraiment - même si vous n'avez pas encore ce que vous voulez, il est inutile de lire encore et encore sur ce sujet, à moins que...

À moins que vous ne vous laissiez porter par l'histoire, les parfums des fleurs, le bleu profond de la mer et du ciel italiens, l'humour britannique, l'amour, et quelques citations bien pensées :
« Les compliments sont quelque chose de merveilleux qui vous réchauffe le cœur et vous poussent à tout faire pour vous en montrer digne, révélant les qualités enfouies au plus profond de vous. »
Encore une fois, c'est quelque chose que je fais depuis longtemps, à commencer par mes enfants : je leur ai toujours dit qu'ils sont beaux et intelligents, pour qu'ils se sentent beaux et intelligents. (Bien sûr, je pense ce que je dis, ce qui est plus facile : mes enfants sont les meilleurs ! Pardonnez-moi, je suis une mère !)
À moins que vous souhaitiez être en Italie, avoir le temps de faire ce qui ne semble rien, mais que nous devrions avoir le temps de faire :
« Les femmes s'assirent sur le muret au fond du jardin supérieur après le dîner, et regardèrent l'énorme lune passer lentement au-dessus du lieu où Shelley avait vécu ses derniers mois juste un siècle plus tôt. »


Sara What a fabulous review. You have picked up on all the aspects of this book that made it sing for me. I am well past the dreaming and building stage of life, but it is never too late to determine to be happy and see the wonder in the things you DO have. The quote of the women lined up on the wall is just so perfect to me.

Perhaps the fact that I always wanted so much to see Italy, and now realize I never will, makes visiting virtually such a thrill. I love that you know that the detail about the figs is out of season and can go down and check via your own fig tree. How splendid.


message 3: by Zoeytron (new)

Zoeytron Oh, this was such a lovely review, Gabrielle. I have yet to read the book, but have seen the movie multiple times. It mesmerizes me every time.


Gabrielle Dubois Sara
Thank you for your compliments. As Elizabeth von Arnim says: they warm my heart and push me to be worthy in my next book review, to deserve them even more!
So sad you couldn't go to Italy, Sara! I went there for the first time last year, "only" three days in Roma... I just wish I could go back to Italy one day! :)


Gabrielle Dubois Zoeytron
Thanks Zoe,
I didn't know there was a movie? ... I'm sure the book is better! ;)


Tania It's one of my favourite books. (I love the film, too).


Gabrielle Dubois Tania
Maybe I should try to see this movie, finally! Who are the director and actresses?


message 8: by Zoeytron (new)

Zoeytron Gabrielle wrote: "Zoeytron
Thanks Zoe,
I didn't know there was a movie? ... I'm sure the book is better! ;)"


Gabrielle, this movie was directed by Mike Newell. It has Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker, Jim Broadbent, Michael Kitchen, Alred Molina. I can't come up with the name of the actress who played Lottie. It caught a tone that was absolutely charming. Would love to hear your thoughts on it if you decide to check it out.


Tania Mike Newell directed it. It stars Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence, Joan Plowright, Jim Broadbent and Alfred Molina among others.


Gabrielle Dubois Tania, Zoeytron
Thank you for all these informations, I'll do my best to try to watch this movie! 🙂


message 11: by Josephine (Jo) (new)

Josephine (Jo) Great review Gabrielle!


Gabrielle Dubois Josephine (Jo) wrote: "Great review Gabrielle!"

Oh, thank you, Joséphine! I think you should like this novel. If you read it, let me know...


message 13: by Josephine (Jo) (new)

Josephine (Jo) Oh I will do. x


message 14: by Kat (new) - added it

Kat I have always known Elizabeth von Arnim's name only because she was a cousin of Katherine Mansfield's. I've seen the movie, but didn't realize it was based on a book by von Arnim. Interesting!


Gabrielle Dubois Kat
I had no time to read about Elizabeth von Arnim yet, so you learned me something, thanks. Again the movie... I definitely must see it! 😏


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