Bright Young Things discussion

54 views
Group Reads Archive > The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss as you read...

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim Elizabeth von Arnim

(...please note that as the multiple threads for section-by-section reading have not been used over the last few months I am reverting to just one discussion thread for each of our monthly group reads. - If anyone feels very strongly that multiple section threads should be re-instated please let me know)


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Good idea.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

This is the first time I've read von Arnim, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Her characterization of the two repressed women (Mrs. Arbuthnot and Mrs. Wilkins) is brilliant.


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) I loved the way she showed, in a rather romantic, funny and extreme way, what can happen to people when they travel, are taken out of their normal life. While reading this book I was reminded of my own experiences traveling and the different ways I experienced myself, got to know things about myself which I hadn't known before, or, which I knew about but became magnified. Same goes for what can happen to people in the face of beauty; in this story everyone goes gaga. If it's about the gorgeous surroundings it can be transformative in a very positive way. But von Armin juxtaposes this against the beauty of Caroline, which I think is really clever. She doesn't appreciate this at all and the men make fools of themselves.

The first thing I ever read my von Armin was her book Elizabeth & Her German Garden. Her knowledge and love of gardening is used really well in this book in all her descriptions of trees, plants and flowers.


message 5: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
This is such a funny book - very similar in tone in fact to last month's group read Cold Comfort Farm.

Very early in the book there is a bit that goes...

"...They both felt that it was Mrs Arbuthnot who ought to write the letter and do the business part. Not only was she used to organising and being practical, but she also was older, and certainly calmer; and she herself had no doubt too that she was wiser. Neither had Mrs Wilkins any doubt of this; the very way Mrs Arbuthnot parted her hair suggested a great calm that could only proceed from Wisdom.

I love it!


message 6: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Ally wrote: "This is such a funny book - very similar in tone in fact to last month's group read Cold Comfort Farm.

Very early in the book there is a bit that goes...

"...They both felt that ..."


I have to agree with you, Ally. This is really a funny book as you've said, and von Arnim's writing is so witty, isn't it? I'm really enjoying this read; I was afraid that I wouldn't because I've seen the film so very many times that I know the plot and so on. But I'm glad I'm reading it because the writing is just so very good. Thanks!


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) One of my favorite lines came from Caroline: " That's what mother's always doing - inviting authors. I hate authors. I wouldn't mind them so much if they didn't write books."


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finished the book this morning and found it absolutely delightful! My favorite line was in reference to Mrs. Fisher: "...only once a day would she have to sit at the dining room table and endure the nuts..." Love the double-entendre!


message 9: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Anne wrote: "One of my favorite lines came from Caroline: " That's what mother's always doing - inviting authors. I hate authors. I wouldn't mind them so much if they didn't write books.""

Wonderful, isn't that? Very funny indeed!


message 10: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Sharon wrote: "I just finished the book this morning and found it absolutely delightful! My favorite line was in reference to Mrs. Fisher: "...only once a day would she have to sit at the dining room table and ..."

Good catch on that double-entendre, Sharon! I'm not finished with the book yet but have only about 80 pages to go. I'm enjoying it very much and am glad we chose it for our group read. I'm looking forward to more of your comments.


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) There were so many good lines in this book. I also loved Mrs. Fisher and her comment about the nuts. It was such a fun read. I saw the movie so long ago, I'll have to watch it again and see if they captured everything from the book.


message 12: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I'm about half-way through and although I'm loving the witty prose, the beautiful settings and the characterisations I am still finding that it's starting to drag. I'm finding myself putting it down after each chapter rather than sailing right on through as I normally would. I can't put my finger on the problem! - I too am getting sick of the constant 'she's so beautiful no-one understands her' elements of the writing when it comes to Lady Caroline.

I inittally thought this was going to have feminist elements - or at least an 'empowerment for women' elements but the threads just aren't developing.

It is certainly enchanting but there is something lacking at the same time.


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Ally,
I know what you mean about enjoying it but also not so much. I found myself wondering why I was feeling that way, like it needed a bit more substance or momentum to completely engage me. As for Lady Caroline I just took as such an unreal character that I started to wonder what the author was doing - finally just decided that she was supposed to be a personification of beauty, as I sort of wrote in my first post. She did get annoying. Oops. You haven't finished. I almost wrote a spoiler.


message 14: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
There is a very interesting Christian thread running through this book with the emphasis on being in Heaven and the restorative power of love. Mrs Arbuthnot's inability to pray while in Italy and Mrs Wilkins' being filled up with some sort of Godly spirit. - You don't get that level of Christian morality in modern books and I wondered how other readers thought about it.


message 15: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments I finished the book a few days ago and must say that I really loved reading it. von Arnim's writing is easy and flowing and her descriptions of both the characters and the environment were beautifully done. I would most definitely recommend this book to others, and plan on reading some other books by Elizabeth myself. I've placed a few on my to-read list, which is growing to the point of absurdity! LOL! Now I have a question: Which character did you like the best of the women? Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Fisher, or Caroline Dexter? And of the men, who was your favorite? One of the husbands or Briggs, or perhaps even the gardener? Thanks!


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Ellen wrote: " Now I have a question: Which character did you like the best of the women? Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Fisher, or Caroline Dexter? And of the men, who was your favorite? One of the husbands or Briggs, or perhaps even the gardener? "

I'll take a shot at answering your first question. The most likable character was Mrs. Wilkins. But, I liked the character of Mrs. Fisher a lot. Because of her prickly, anti-social nature she was given some of the best sarcastic and funny lines. Remember the one about "the nuts." There were more but I don't remember them all now. And having read the book on a kindle it isn't possible to easily look them up.

The men don't stand out for me very much. Briggs was likable until he went mad for Caroline Dexter. If we hadn't heard about and seen so many times how people lose their heads over her, I might not have minded when Briggs also fell under her spell. But if I think in terms of Caroline as the personification of the natural beauty all around them then I can forgive him. Everyone was caught and transformed by beauty in this book.


message 17: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Anne wrote: "Ellen wrote: " Now I have a question: Which character did you like the best of the women? Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Fisher, or Caroline Dexter? And of the men, who was your favorite? One ..."

Thanks so much, Anne. I do agree. I liked Mrs. Wilkins the best of the women, although I did think that Mrs. Fisher was very amusing, a real throwback to an earlier time, wasn't she? She did have the funniest lines; I remember the nuts episodes as well - they really had me laughing. And the men weren't really fleshed out very much as themselves; we only get to see them through the women's eyes, I think. They're rather flat characters.

I was thinking about the film the other day, and how the some of the actors chosen went against the descriptions of them in the book. If I remember correctly, the actress who played Caroline had black hair and sultry blue eyes, whereas in the book she is described as have "flaxen" hair. And Mrs. Wilkins is also described as having light hair, but the actress who played her had dark hair. Then Mrs. Arbuthnot was described as having dark hair, but the actress who played her had light hair, almost blond. Interesting.


message 18: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I liked Lotty Wilkins the most - she was so open and the personification of Christian goodwill, 'loving thy neighbour', and enjoying the beauty of 'God's creation' - I wish I knew more people like Lotty who saw only the good and actively sought to see the wonder in life! In fact, I wish I was more like Lotty!

Unfortunately I identified more with Caroline Dester (not that I'm in any way as beautiful as she is described) but I have a very similar wish to be totally alone and free from people 'grabbing' at my time and my serenity. I suppose I can be just as sullen and unsociable (and I haven't mastered the art of masking my distain! LOL) - I didn't like her character so maybe I ought to look at that within myself!

Rose was a sad character, even the appearance of her husband is a sad incident in the book as the guy didn't come for her. Mrs Fisher too was a sad sort of character, living in the past and missing so much of what is lovely in the here and now.

The men? - I disliked the mercenary Mellersh, only interesting in helping others to help himself and I found him totally unworthy of Lotty. I felt a little warmer towards Frederick as I feel that Rose misguidely and unrealising had pushed him away. Despite not coming for Rose there is hope there that things will be different in the future. Briggs was lovely, he seemed generous and puppy-like but I disliked the sudden change of affection from Rose to Caroline. It was unthoughtful and, for me, out of character (...which seems odd to say!).

Domenico didn't really register for me - he was a two dimentional character used to illustrate Caroline's personality.


message 19: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Ally wrote: "I liked Lotty Wilkins the most - she was so open and the personification of Christian goodwill, 'loving thy neighbour', and enjoying the beauty of 'God's creation' - I wish I knew more people like ..."

Ally, thank you so very much for this brilliant analysis of the characters. You sound a lot like me: We both like to be left alone and enjoy our own company and peace of mind. I, too, am sometimes perceived as "unsociable" and "a loner", and although I used to care a lot about others' opinions I don't so much any more. I once heard someone say, "What other people think of me is none of my business", and I thought that was so freeing. The older I get the less the opinions of other people matter to me. This started changing during my 50s and now that I'm past 60 the habit of not investing so much of myself in trying to meld the opinions of others has settled in. It's very much easier now to live my life as I choose, you know?

I do like Lotty the best, too. What a piece of sunshine she is! And I agree: I'd like to more like her as well, although my mind may not be set up to maintain that positive outlook day in and day out. But she is a wonderful character indeed. I don't care for Mellersh either - I've known too many people, men and women, who are very much like them, and wish to be careful to avoid them for the rest of my life. Yuck!

Once again, thank you so much for this great post. I appreciate hearing your viewpoint very much, and I hope to hear more from you about other books we read in the future. Have a wonderful Sunday!!

Ellen


message 20: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Not to simply parrot Ellen, but Lotty is my favorite as well. I found her to be open and loving and honest in her emotions. "Positive" - yes, she's a positive life force.


message 21: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Ivan wrote: "Not to simply parrot Ellen, but Lotty is my favorite as well. I found her to be open and loving and honest in her emotions. "Positive" - yes, she's a positive life force."

I wouldn't assume that you were "parroting", Ivan. Just because we agree with others' opinions doesn't mean that they aren't also ours, right? It would be wonderful to be like Lotty, wouldn't it? I think I'd need a brain transplant for that to happen, though! LOL! I'm just not as "good" as she is, you know?

And what have you been reading lately, Ivan? Do you recommend any books to us? I'm always looking for tips!

Thanks so much!


message 22: by Abbey (new)

Abbey (abbess) | 32 comments I'm only a bit over half-way through the book, so I'll keep my comments fairly general and not plot-driven, okay? I've gotten to the part where Lotty writes to Mellerish...

I think we are meant to "find ourselves" in each of the lead characters at least a little bit: Caroline the unthinking (almost...) unheeding heodonist who lives for dresses and admiration, and is beginning (at age 28!!) to find it "lacking", like the teenager we mostly all were, at least for a short while. Lotty, the almost-childish Child Bride sort, who hopes and hopes and tries and tries - she's the Young Matron. Rose, who has grown into her marriage having lost many of her hopes and dreams and simply tries to "do good" possibly in the hope, unexpressed even to herself, that if she's good enough, forgiving enough, gives of herself enough, maybe, maybe she'll be loved, or, at least, not ignored. And Mrs. Fisher, who seems to have not tasted of life very much - a warning to us to not become like that as we age, bound by and into our own past so tightly that we cannot see the beauty and joy around us now.

Me? I've been all of 'em to varying degrees over my sixty years, but perhaps not so much Mrs. Fisher for, you see, I've not lost my Lotty-ness (grin) - I'm one of those unspeakable bores who gets up each and every morning and is completely joyful to have been given another day, a day as Alcott wrote "with no mistakes in it yet". Branded Pollyanna and Goody-two-shoes by many of my friends and almost all of my family, I tried and tried endlessly to please them by behaving according to The Rules - as Rose has. I finally gave up - it was never, ever going to happen, I'd never be able to please them - the rules kept changing...!. I simply have become more "me" as I age, and am enjoying life a great deal more now.

So I'm mostly a Lotty sort, with bits of Caroline selfishness mixed in, as I tend to prefer my own company much of the time these days (smile) - except online, of course!

I'm reading as my last-thing-at-night treat for about a half-hour before I go to bed, and find myself quite looking forward to it each night. Ahhh, Italy in Spring....! Flowers, castles, seacoast, servants.... simply lovely. Pure enchantment.


message 23: by Lilian (new)

Lilian Nattel (lilian_nattel) | 4 comments I enjoyed this novel very much, but I think the best bits were in the first half. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it could have used a good edit. The second half was repetitious. With some cuts, it could have easily been a novella--and then it really would have been completely enchanting.


message 24: by Johanna (new)

Johanna (johanna25) | 9 comments So far, I think it's a neat little story, and I like the idea of transformative vacations! I agree with the others who said that it drags at times. I find it pretty easy to put it down. My main complaint is that I don't enjoy reading 3-5 pages of what one character spent the day thinking about, only to move to the next character and read 3-5 pages on what SHE spent the day thinking about, and so on. I have noticed that the author uses her this technique less with Mrs. Wilkins, at least as much as I can remember right now without having the book on me. I don't recall near as much "Mrs. Wilkins spent the day thinking ..." as I have noticed it with other characters.

I've still got about 80 pages left to finish--in general, I think that this is a decent novel, but I think I would like it more if it had gone through a better edit.


message 25: by Anouska (new)

Anouska (noosh) | 5 comments I absolutely loved this book. I flew threw it on a recent train journey, and thought it was, well, quite 'enchanting'.

I must admit my heart sank when I read the first chapter: I thought, oh dear, this is Shirley Valentine of the 1920s, but it picked up after that. Certainly, its a frivilous read, but there are other layers to it - obviously the innuendo, as already pointed out, and the characterisation is well done. Deceptively simple I thought and I found it reminiscient of Oscar Wilde at times.

And this is the first of the 'Bright Young Things' books I've had the opportunity to read in time to comment this year!


message 26: by Anouska (new)

Anouska (noosh) | 5 comments *through (apologies for the typo, couldn't get back on line to correct yesterday)


message 27: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Lawson (thequeenofcurdsandcream) | 4 comments I finished reading it today and enjoyed it immensely. I'd never heard of Elizabeth Von Armin before but found her very easy to read. I loved her use of free indirect discourse and focalisation and enjoyed learning about the women as they revealed themselves to the reader, especially Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot. I enjoyed the light, deft style of writing and the little witticisms thrown in throughout the novel.

Contrary to what Johanna says, I had no problem with the descriptions of what the characters were thinking, and found Von Armin an easier read than Virginia Woolf. I also loved the way she uses the background of the changing vegetation at San Salvatore over the month long vacatation to give a further aspect of time advancing as the women develop, change and open up. I adored the idea of Rose and Lotty realising how they feel about their husbands and falling in love with them all over again once they're away from Hampstead. Above all the idea of an 'enchanted April' and San Salvatore weaving a spell over all four women (and the three men) is an adorable, fairy tale idea, especially the trope of the salvation of Italy on all of the main characters. I'm an Italiophile and was there with them at San Salvatore in mind and spirit. Now all I need is my own medieval Italian castle surrounded by wistaria!


message 28: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) I loved this book. I had never heard of it, or of Elizabeth von Arnim before, but am so glad to have read it.

I mostly identified with Lotty and Rose, though at various points I noticed similarities with 'Scrap'.

The whole novel is truly enchanting... I've been trying to think of what to write about it, but I'm rendered utterly speechless when I try to relate my feelings on it or how deeply I connected with it. It was like a dream - a beautiful dream - and when one tries to explain it, it quickly dissolves and one is left trying to snatch up the shattered fragments to reassemble them...

Stunning, beautiful novel, and exceedingly witty - I chuckled aloud numerous times whilst reading it.

Anyone else want to find an Italian castle to share next April? ;)


message 29: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Lawson (thequeenofcurdsandcream) | 4 comments Only if I can invite my hubby once I've arrived there and fallen under its spell!

It's strange how you sometimes discover a writer, often not even a contemporary one, who makes such a strong impression. I felt the same way when I read Katherine Mansfield's short stories, and coincidentally she was a cousin of von Arnim.


message 30: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Mansfield absolutely blows me away - I'm completely in awe of her writing. Interesting that she was a cousin of von Arnim.


message 31: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Ally wrote: "Mansfield absolutely blows me away - I'm completely in awe of her writing. Interesting that she was a cousin of von Arnim."

I'm a great admire of Katherine Mansfield's writing, too, Ally and Sandra. Perhaps one day we'll do a group read of one of her works. That's be lots of fun. It's also interesting that Virginia Woolf admired, and was very jealous of, Mansfield as well, although it wasn't until after Mansfield death that Woolf went public with her admiration. Until then Woolf wrote mainly in her diary about her jealousy! ;o)


message 32: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (karenvirginiaflaxman) | 96 comments Lois wrote: "I loved this book. I had never heard of it, or of Elizabeth von Arnim before, but am so glad to have read it.

I mostly identified with Lotty and Rose, though at various points I n..."


Lois, you bet I want to go and share a villa!! Just let me know when you wish to go and I'll be there! It's been a dream of mine to go and live in Italy for decades, and Tuscany would be my first choice. Great idea!!


message 33: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments Well, I finally found my way to the finish of this book. It was lovely and yet I felt that at times it dragged. It seemed that each of the ladies had lost something along the way and the month in Italy helped them to recapture it.

Lotty was the most likeable of the women, as Briggs (despite his failings) was of the men.


back to top