The Enchanted April [NOOK Book]

Overview

A recipe for happiness: four women, one medieval Italian castle, plenty of wisteria, and solitude as needed.

The women at the center of The Enchanted April are alike only in their dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. They find each other—and the castle of their dreams—through a classified ad in a London newspaper one rainy February afternoon. The ladies expect a pleasant holiday, but they don’t anticipate that the month they ...
See more details below
The Enchanted April

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99
BN.com price
(Save 26%)$14.95 List Price
Marketplace
BN.com

All Available Formats & Editions

Overview

A recipe for happiness: four women, one medieval Italian castle, plenty of wisteria, and solitude as needed.

The women at the center of The Enchanted April are alike only in their dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. They find each other—and the castle of their dreams—through a classified ad in a London newspaper one rainy February afternoon. The ladies expect a pleasant holiday, but they don’t anticipate that the month they spend in Portofino will reintroduce them to their true natures and reacquaint them with joy. Now, if the same transformation can be worked on their husbands and lovers, the enchantment will be complete.

The Enchanted April was a best-seller in both England and the United States, where it was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and set off a craze for tourism to Portofino. More recently, the novel has been the inspiration for a major film and a Broadway play.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Four Englishwomen vacation together at an Italian castle in von Arnim's novel, a film version of which is now a popular art-house attraction. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“This delicious confection will work its magic on all.” —Daily Telegraph
 
“Extraordinarily well-written . . . It is witty, human, often very beautiful.” —Punch
 
“Brims with magic and laughter.” —The Guardian

“[One] of the wittiest novels in the English language . . . The ultimate renter’s novel: a month in and out of a gorgeous place where extraordinary things happen; then let someone else deal with the plumbing . . . It’s a confection, it’s a dream, it’s a fleeting April romance, but oh, how hard to get this story out of your head. . . . No one can come away from this April without thinking, even for just a moment, that the course of true love, unsmooth as it may run, is certainly worth taking.” —Brenda Bowen, from the Introduction

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590174319
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 4/13/2011
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 176,955
  • File size: 412 KB

Meet the Author

Elizabeth von Arnim (1866—1941) was born Mary Annette Beauchamp in Sydney, Australia. Her first book, the autobiographical novel Elizabeth and Her German Garden–inspired by the grounds of the estate she shared with her husband, Count Henning August von Arnim–was an enormous success. After the death of her first husband, Elizabeth married Francis the second Earl Russell, brother of Bertrand Russell. It was a disastrous marriage and the two eventually separated. Von Arnim moved to the US at the start of World War II, and spent her final years there.

Cathleen Schine has received wide acclaim for her five previous novels: Alice in Bed, To the Birdhouse, The Evolution of Jane, and the international bestsellersRameau's Niece and The Love Letter, both of which were made into feature films. She lives in New York City.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright Elizabeth von Arnim

One

It began in a woman’s club in London on a February afternoon – an uncomfortable club, and a miserable afternoon – when Mrs Wilkins, who had come down from Hampstead to shop and had lunched at her club, took up The Times from the table in the smoking-room, and running her listless eye down the Agony Column saw this:

To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let Furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1,000, The Times.

That was its conception; yet, as in the case of many another, the conceiver was unaware of it at the moment.

So entirely unaware was Mrs Wilkins that her April for that year had then and there been settled for her that she dropped the newspaper with a gesture that was both irritated and resigned, and went over to the window and stared drearily out at the dripping street.

Not for her were mediaeval castles, even those that are specially described as small. Not for her the shores in April of the Mediterranean, and the wistaria and sunshine. Such delights were only for the rich. Yet the advertisement had been addressed to persons who appreciate these things, so that it had been, anyhow, addressed too to her, for she certainly appreciated them; more than anybody knew; more than she had ever told. But she was poor. In the whole world she possessed of her own only ninety pounds, saved from year to year, put by carefully pound by pound, out of her dress allowance. She had scraped this sum together at the suggestion of her husband as a shield and refuge against a rainy day. Her dress allowance, given her by her father, was £100 a year, so that Mrs Wilkins’s clothes were what her husband, urging her to save, called modest and becoming and her acquaintance to each other, when they spoke of her at all, which was seldom for she was very negligible, called a perfect sight.

Mr Wilkins, a solicitor, encouraged thrift, except that branch of it which got into his food. He did not call that thrift, he called it bad housekeeping. But for the thrift which, like moth, penetrated into Mrs Wilkins’s clothes and spoilt them, he had much praise. ‘You never know,’ he said, ‘when there will be a rainy day, and you may be very glad to find you have a nest-egg. Indeed we both may.’

Looking out of the club window into Shaftesbury Avenue – hers was an economical club, but convenient for Hampstead, where she lived, and for Shoolbred’s where she shopped – Mrs Wilkins, having stood there some time very drearily, her mind’s eye on the Mediterranean in April, and the wistaria, and the enviable opportunities of the rich, while her bodily eye watched the really extremely horrible sooty rain falling steadily on the hurrying umbrellas and splashing omnibuses, suddenly wondered whether perhaps this was not the rainy day Mellersh – Mellersh was Mr Wilkins – had so often encouraged her to prepare for, and whether to get out of such a climate and into the small mediaeval castle wasn’t perhaps what Providence had all along intended her to do with her savings. Part of her savings, of course; perhaps quite a small part. The castle, being mediaeval, might also be dilapidated, and dilapidations were surely cheap. She wouldn’t in the least mind a few of them, because you didn’t pay for dilapidations which were already there; on the contrary – by reducing the price you had to pay they really paid you. But what nonsense to think of it . . .

She turned away from the window with the same gesture of mingled irritation and resignation with which she had laid down The Times, and crossed the room towards the door with the intention of getting her mackintosh and umbrella and fighting her way into one of the overcrowded omnibuses and going to Shoolbred’s on her way home and buying some soles for Mellersh’s dinner – Mellersh was difficult with fish and liked only soles, except salmon – when she beheld Mrs Arbuthnot, a woman she knew by sight as also living in Hampstead and belonging to the club, sitting at the table in the middle of the room on which the newspapers and magazines were kept, absorbed, in her turn, in the first page of The Times.

Mrs Wilkins had never yet spoken to Mrs Arbuthnot, who belonged to one of the various church sets, and who analysed, classified, divided and registered the poor; whereas she and Mellersh, when they did go out, went to the parties of impressionist painters, of whom in Hampstead there were many. Mellersh had a sister who had married one of them and lived up on the Heath, and because of this alliance Mrs Wilkins was drawn into a circle which was highly unnatural to her, and she had learned to dread pictures. She had to say things about them, and she didn’t know what to say. She used to murmur, ‘Marvellous,’ and feel that it was not enough. But nobody minded. Nobody listened. Nobody took any notice of Mrs Wilkins. She was the kind of person who is not noticed at parties. Her clothes, infested by thrift, made her practically invisible; her face was non-arresting; her conversation was reluctant; she was shy. And if one’s clothes and face and conversation are all negligible, thought Mrs Wilkins, who recognized her disabilities, what, at parties, is there left of one?

Also she was always with Wilkins, that clean-shaven, fine-looking man, who gave a party, merely by coming to it, a great air. Wilkins was very respectable. He was known to be highly thought of by his senior partners. His sister’s circle admired him. He pronounced adequately intelligent judgments on art and artists. He was pithy; he was prudent; he never said a word too much, nor, on the other hand, did he ever say a word too little. He produced the impression of keeping copies of everything he said; and he was so obviously reliable that it often happened that people who met him at these parties became discontented with their own solicitors, and after a period of restlessness extricated themselves and went to Wilkins.

Naturally Mrs Wilkins was blotted out. ‘She,’ said his sister, with something herself of the judicial, the digested, and the final in her manner, ‘should stay at home.’ But Wilkins could not leave his wife at home. He was a family solicitor, and all such have wives and show them. With his in the week he went to parties, and with his on Sundays he went to church. Being still fairly young – he was thirty-nine – and ambitious of old ladies, of whom he had not yet acquired in his practice a sufficient number, he could not afford to miss church, and it was there that Mrs Wilkins became familiar, though never through words, with Mrs Arbuthnot.

She saw her marshalling the children of the poor into pews. She would come in at the head of the procession from the Sunday School exactly five minutes before the choir, and get her boys and girls neatly fitted into their allotted seats, and down on their little knees in their preliminary prayer, and up again on their feet just as, to the swelling organ, the vestry door opened, and the choir and clergy, big with the litanies and commandments they were presently to roll out, emerged. She had a sad face, yet she was evidently efficient. The combination used to make Mrs Wilkins wonder, for she had been told by Mellersh, on days when she had only been able to get plaice, that if one were efficient one wouldn’t be depressed, and that if one does one’s job well one becomes automatically bright and brisk.

About Mrs Arbuthnot there was nothing bright and brisk, though much in her way with the Sunday School children that was automatic; but when Mrs Wilkins, turning from the window, caught sight of her in the club she was not being automatic at all, but was looking fixedly at one portion of the first page of The Times, holding the paper quite still, her eyes not moving. She was just staring; and her face, as usual, was the face of a patient and disappointed Madonna.

Obeying an impulse she wondered at even while obeying it, Mrs Wilkins, the shy and the reluctant, instead of proceeding as she had intended to the cloakroom and from thence to Shoolbred’s in search of Mellersh’s fish, stopped at the table and sat down exactly opposite Mrs Arbuthnot, to whom she had never yet spoken in her life.

It was one of those long, narrow refectory tables, so that they were quite close to each other.

Mrs Arbuthnot, however, did not look up. She continued to gaze, with eyes that seemed to be dreaming, at one spot only of The Times.

Mrs Wilkins watched her a minute, trying to screw up courage to speak to her. She wanted to ask her if she had seen the advertisement. She did not know why she wanted to ask her this, but she wanted to. How stupid not to be able to speak to her. She looked so kind. She looked so unhappy. Why couldn’t two unhappy people refresh each other on their way through this dusty business of life by a little talk – real, natural talk, about what they felt, what they would have liked, what they still tried to hope? And she could not help thinking that Mrs Arbuthnot, too, was reading that very same advertisement. Her eyes were on the very part of the paper. Was she, too, picturing what it would be like – the colour, the fragrance, the light, the soft lapping of the sea among little hot rocks? Colour, fragrance, light, sea; instead of Shaftesbury Avenue, and the wet omnibuses, and the fish department at Shoolbred’s, and the Tube to Hampstead, and dinner, and tomorrow the same and the day after the same and always the same . . .

Suddenly Mrs Wilkins found herself leaning across the table. ‘Are you reading about the mediaeval castle and the wistaria?’ she heard herself asking.

Naturally Mrs Arbuthnot was surprised; but she was not half so much surprised as Mrs Wilkins was at herself for asking.

Mrs Arbuthnot had not yet to her knowledge set eyes on the shabby, lank, loosely-put-together figure sitting opposite her, with its small freckled face and big grey eyes almost disappearing under a smashed-down wet-weather hat, and she gazed at her a moment without answering. She was reading about the mediaeval castle and the wistaria, or rather had read about it ten minutes before, and since then had been lost in dreams – of light, of colour, of fragrance, of the soft lapping of the sea among little hot rocks . . .

‘Why do you ask me that?’ she said in her grave voice, for her training of and by the poor had made her grave and patient.

Mrs Wilkins flushed and looked excessively shy and frightened. ‘Oh, only because I saw it too, and I thought perhaps – I thought somehow—’ she stammered.

Whereupon Mrs Arbuthnot, her mind being used to getting people into lists and divisions, from habit considered, as she gazed thoughtfully at Mrs Wilkins, under what heading, supposing she had to classify her, she could most properly be put.

‘And I know you by sight,’ went on Mrs Wilkins, who, like all the shy, once she was started plunged on, frightening herself to more and more speech by the sheer sound of what she had said last in her ears. ‘Every Sunday – I see you every Sunday in church—’

‘In church?’ echoed Mrs Arbuthnot.

‘And this seems such a wonderful thing – this advertisement about the wistaria – and—’

Mrs Wilkins, who must have been at least thirty, broke off and wriggled in her chair with the movement of an awkward and embarrassed schoolgirl.

‘It seems so wonderful,’ she went on in a kind of burst, ‘and – it is
such a miserable day . . .’

And then she sat looking at Mrs Arbuthnot with the eyes of an imprisoned dog.

‘This poor thing,’ thought Mrs Arbuthnot, whose life was spent in helping and alleviating, ‘needs advice.’

She accordingly prepared herself patiently to give it.

‘If you see me in church,’ she said, kindly and attentively, ‘I suppose you live in Hampstead too?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Mrs Wilkins. And she repeated, her head on its long thin neck drooping a little as if the recollection of Hampstead bowed her, ‘Oh yes.’

‘Where?’ asked Mrs Arbuthnot, who, when advice was needed, naturally first proceeded to collect the facts.

But Mrs Wilkins, laying her hand softly and caressingly on the part of The Times where the advertisement was, as though the mere printed words of it were precious, only said, ‘Perhaps that’s why this seems so wonderful.’

‘No – I think that’s wonderful anyhow,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot, forgetting facts and faintly sighing.

‘Then you were reading it?’

‘Yes,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot, her eyes going dreamy again.

‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful?’ murmured Mrs Wilkins.

‘Wonderful,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot. Her face, which had lit up, faded into patience again. ‘Very wonderful,’ she said. ‘But it’s no use wasting one’s time thinking of such things.’

‘Oh, but it is,’ was Mrs Wilkins’s quick, surprising reply; surprising because it was so much unlike the rest of her – the characterless coat and skirt, the crumpled hat, the undecided wisp of hair straggling out. ‘And just the considering of them is worth while in itself – such a change from Hampstead – and sometimes I believe – I really do believe – if one considers hard enough one gets things.’

Mrs Arbuthnot observed her patiently. In what category would she, supposing she had to, put her?

‘Perhaps,’ she said, leaning forward a little, ‘you will tell me your name. If we are to be friends’ – she smiled her grave smile – ‘as I hope we are, we had better begin at the beginning.’

‘Oh yes – how kind of you. I’m Mrs Wilkins,’ said Mrs Wilkins. ‘I don’t expect,’ she added, flushing, as Mrs Arbuthnot said nothing, ‘that it conveys anything to you. Sometimes it – it doesn’t seem to convey anything to me either. But’ – she looked round with a movement of seeking help – ‘I am Mrs Wilkins.’

She did not like her name. It was a mean, small name, with a kind of facetious twist, she thought, about its end like the upward curve of a pugdog’s tail. There it was, however. There was no doing anything with it. Wilkins she was and Wilkins she would remain; and though her husband encouraged her to give it on all occasions as Mrs Mellersh-Wilkins she only did that when he was within earshot, for she thought Mellersh made Wilkins worse, emphasizing it in the way Chatsworth on the gateposts of a villa emphasizes the villa.

When first he suggested she should add Mellersh she had objected for the above reason, and after a pause – Mellersh was much too prudent to speak except after a pause, during which presumably he was taking a careful mental copy of his coming observation – he said, much displeased, ‘But I am not a villa,’ and looked at her as he looks who hopes, for perhaps the hundredth time, that he may not have married a fool.

Of course he was not a villa, Mrs Wilkins assured him; she had never supposed he was; she had not dreamed of meaning . . . she was only just thinking . . .

The more she explained the more earnest became Mellersh’s hope, familiar to him by this time, for he had then been a husband for two years, that he might not by any chance have married a fool; and they had a prolonged quarrel, if that can be called a quarrel which is conducted with dignified silence on one side and earnest apology on the other, as to whether or no Mrs Wilkins had intended to suggest that Mr Wilkins was a villa.

‘I believe,’ she had thought when it was at last over – it took a long while – ‘that anybody would quarrel about anything when they’ve not left off being together for a single day for two whole years. What we both need is a holiday.’

‘My husband,’ went on Mrs Wilkins to Mrs Arbuthnot, trying to throw some light on herself, ‘is a solicitor. He—’ She cast about for something she could say elucidatory of Mellersh, and found: ‘He’s very handsome.’

‘Well,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot kindly, ‘that must be a great pleasure to you.’

‘Why?’ asked Mrs Wilkins.

‘Because,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot, a little taken aback, for constant intercourse with the poor had accustomed her to have her pronouncements accepted without question, ‘because beauty – handsomeness – is a gift like any other, and if it is properly used—’

She trailed off into silence. Mrs Wilkins’s great grey eyes were fixed on her, and it seemed suddenly to Mrs Arbuthnot that perhaps she was becoming crystallized into a habit of exposition, and of exposition after the manner of nursemaids, through having an audience that couldn’t but agree, that would be afraid, if it wished, to interrupt, that didn’t know, that was, in fact, at her mercy.

But Mrs Wilkins was not listening; for just then, absurd as it seemed, a picture had flashed across her brain, and there were two figures in it sitting together under a great trailing wistaria that stretched across the branches of a tree she didn’t know, and it was herself and Mrs Arbuthnot – she saw them – she saw them. And behind them, bright in sunshine, were old grey walls – the mediaeval castle – she saw it – they were there . . .

She therefore stared at Mrs Arbuthnot and did not hear a word she said. And Mrs Arbuthnot stared too at Mrs Wilkins, arrested by the expression on her face, which was swept by the excitement of what she saw, and was as luminous and tremulous under it as water in sunlight when it is ruffled by a gust of wind. At this moment, if she had been at a party, Mrs Wilkins would have been looked at with interest.

They stared at each other; Mrs Arbuthnot surprised, inquiringly, Mrs Wilkins with the eyes of some one who has had a revelation. Of course. That was how it could be done. She herself, she by herself, couldn’t afford it, and wouldn’t be able, even if she could afford it, to go there all alone; but she and Mrs Arbuthnot together . . .

She leaned across the table. ‘Why don’t we try and get it?’ she whispered.

Mrs Arbuthnot became even more wide-eyed. ‘Get it?’ she repeated.

‘Yes,’ said Mrs Wilkins, still as though she were afraid of being overheard. ‘Not just sit here and say How wonderful, and then go home to Hampstead without having put out a finger – go home just as usual and see about the dinner and the fish just as we’ve been doing for years and years and will go on doing for years and years. In fact,’ said Mrs Wilkins, flushing to the roots of her hair, for the sound of what she was saying, of what was coming pouring out, frightened her, and yet she couldn’t stop, ‘I see no end to it. There is no end to it. So that there ought to be a break, there ought to be intervals – in everybody’s interests. Why, it would really be being unselfish to go away and be happy for a little, because we would come back so much nicer. You see, after a bit everybody needs a holiday.’

‘But – how do you mean, get it?’ asked Mrs Arbuthnot.

‘Take it,’ said Mrs Wilkins.

‘Take it?’

‘Rent it. Hire it. Have it.’

‘But – do you mean you and I?’

‘Yes. Between us. Share. Then it would only cost half, and you look so – you look exactly as if you wanted it just as much as I do – as if you ought to have a rest – have something happy happen to you.’

‘Why, but we don’t know each other.’

‘But just think how well we would if we went away together for a month! And I’ve saved for a rainy day, and I expect so have you, and this is the rainy day – look at it—’

‘She is unbalanced,’ thought Mrs Arbuthnot; yet she felt strangely stirred.

‘Think of getting away for a whole month – from everything – to heaven—’

‘She shouldn’t say things like that,’ thought Mrs Arbuthnot. ‘The vicar—’ Yet she felt strangely stirred. It would indeed be wonderful to have a rest, a cessation.

Habit, however, steadied her again; and years of intercourse with the poor made her say, with the slight though sympathetic superiority of the explainer, ‘But then, you see, heaven isn’t somewhere else. It is here and now. We are told so.’

She became very earnest, just as she did when trying patiently to help and enlighten the poor. ‘Heaven is within us,’ she said in her gentle low voice. ‘We are told that on the very highest authority. And you know the lines about the kindred points, don’t you—’

‘Oh yes, I know them,’ interrupted Mrs Wilkins impatiently.

‘The kindred points of heaven and home,’ continued Mrs Arbuth- not, who was used to finishing her sentences. ‘Heaven is in our home.’

‘It isn’t,’ said Mrs Wilkins, again surprisingly.

Mrs Arbuthnot was taken aback. Then she said gently, ‘Oh, but it is. It is there if we choose, if we make it.’

‘I do choose, and I do make it, and it isn’t,’ said Mrs Wilkins.

Then Mrs Arbuthnot was silent, for she too sometimes had doubts about homes. She sat and looked uneasily at Mrs Wilkins, feeling more and more the urgent need of getting her classified. If she could only classify Mrs Wilkins, get her safely under her proper heading, she felt that she herself would regain her balance, which did seem very strangely to be slipping all to one side. For neither had she had a holiday for years, and the advertisement when she saw it had set her dreaming, and Mrs Wilkins’s excitement about it was infectious, and she had the sensation, as she listened to her impetuous, odd talk and watched her lit-up face, that she was being stirred out of sleep.

Clearly Mrs Wilkins was unbalanced, but Mrs Arbuthnot had met the unbalanced before – indeed she was always meeting them – and they had no effect on her own stability at all; whereas this one was making her feel quite wobbly, quite as though to be off and away, away from her compass points of God, Husband, Home and Duty – she didn’t feel as if Mrs Wilkins intended Mr Wilkins to come too – and just for once be happy, would be both good and desirable. Which of course it wasn’t; which certainly of course it wasn’t. She, also, had a nest-egg, invested gradually in the Post Office Savings Bank, but to suppose that she would ever forget her duty to the extent of drawing it out and spending it on herself was surely absurd. Surely she couldn’t, she wouldn’t ever do such a thing? Surely she wouldn’t, she couldn’t ever forget her poor, forget misery and sickness as completely as that? No doubt a trip to Italy would be extraordinarily delightful, but there were many delightful things one would like to do, and what was strength given to one for except to help one not to do them?

Steadfast as the points of the compass to Mrs Arbuthnot were the great four facts of life: God, Husband, Home, Duty. She had gone to sleep on these facts years ago, after a period of much misery, her head resting on them as a pillow; and she had a great dread of being awakened out of so simple and untroublesome a condition. Therefore it was that she searched with earnestness for a heading under which to put Mrs Wilkins, and in this way illumine and steady her own mind; and sitting there looking at her uneasily after her last remark, and feeling herself becoming more and more unbalanced and infected, she decided pro tem, as the vicar said at meetings, to put her under the heading Nerves. It was just possible that she ought to go straight into the category Hysteria, which was often only the antechamber to Lunacy, but Mrs Arbuthnot had learned not to hurry people into their final categories, having on more than one occasion discovered with dismay that she had made a mistake; and how difficult it had been to get them out again, and how crushed she had been with the most terrible remorse.

Yes. Nerves. Probably she had no regular work for others, thought Mrs Arbuthnot; no work that would take her outside herself. Evidently she was rudderless – blown about by gusts, by impulses. Nerves was almost certainly her category, or would be quite soon if no one helped her. Poor little thing, thought Mrs Arbuthnot, her own balance returning hand in hand with her compassion, and unable, because of the table, to see the length of Mrs Wilkins’s legs. All she saw was her small, eager, shy face, and her thin shoulders, and the look of childish longing in her eyes for something that she was sure was going to make her happy. No; such things didn’t make people happy, such fleeting things. Mrs Arbuthnot had learned in her long life with Frederick – he was her husband, and she had married him at twenty and was now thirty-three – where alone true joys are to be found. They are to be found, she now knew, only in daily, in hourly, living for others; they are to be found only – hadn’t she over and over again taken her disappointments and discouragements there, and come away comforted? – at the feet of God.

Frederick had been the kind of husband whose wife betakes herself early to the feet of God. From him to them had been a short though painful step. It seemed short to her in retrospect, but it had really taken the whole of the first year of their marriage, and every inch of the way had been a struggle, and every inch of it was stained, she felt at the time, with her heart’s blood. All that was over now. She had long since found peace. And Frederick, from her passionately loved bridegroom, from her worshipped young husband, had become second only to God on her list of duties and forbearances. There he hung, the second in importance, a bloodless thing bled white by her prayers. For years she had been able to be happy only by forgetting happiness. She wanted to stay like that. She wanted to shut out everything that would remind her of beautiful things, that might set her off again longing, desiring . . .

‘I’d like so much to be friends,’ she said earnestly. ‘Won’t you come and see me, or let me come to you sometimes? Whenever you feel as if you wanted to talk. I’ll give you my address’ – she searched in her handbag – and then you won’t forget.’ And she found a card and held it out.

Mrs Wilkins ignored the card.

‘It’s so funny,’ said Mrs Wilkins, just as if she had not heard her, ‘but I see us both – you and me – this April in the mediaeval castle.’

Mrs Arbuthnot relapsed into uneasiness. ‘Do you?’ she said, making an effort to stay balanced under the visionary gaze of the shining grey eyes. ‘Do you?’

‘Don’t you ever see things in a kind of flash before they happen?’ asked Mrs Wilkins.

‘Never,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot.

She tried to smile; she tried to smile the sympathetic yet wise and tolerant smile with which she was accustomed to listen to the necessarily biased and incomplete views of the poor. She didn’t succeed. The smile trembled out.

‘Of course,’ she said in a low voice, almost as if she were afraid the vicar and the Savings Bank were listening, ‘it would be most beautiful – most beautiful—’

‘Even if it were wrong,’ said Mrs Wilkins, ‘it would only be for a month.’

‘That—’ began Mrs Arbuthnot, quite clear as to the reprehensibleness of such a point of view; but Mrs Wilkins stopped her before she could finish.

‘Anyhow,’ said Mrs Wilkins, stopping her, ‘I’m sure it’s wrong to go on being good for too long, till one gets miserable. And I can see you’ve been good for years and years, because you look so unhappy’ – Mrs Arbuthnot opened her mouth to protest – ‘and I – I’ve done nothing but duties, things for other people, ever since I was a girl, and I don’t believe anybody loves me a bit – a bit – the b-better – and I long – oh, I long – for something else – something else—’

Was she going to cry? Mrs Arbuthnot became acutely uncomfortable and sympathetic. She hoped she wasn’t going to cry. Not there. Not in that unfriendly room, with strangers coming and going.

But Mrs Wilkins, after tugging agitatedly at a handkerchief that wouldn’t come out of her pocket, did succeed at last in merely apparently blowing her nose with it, and then, blinking her eyes very quickly once or twice, looked at Mrs Arbuthnot with a quivering air of half humble, half frightened apology, and smiled.

‘Will you believe,’ she whispered, trying to steady her mouth, evidently dreadfully ashamed of herself, ‘that I’ve never spoken to any one before in my life like this? I can’t think, I simply don’t know, what has come over me.’

‘It’s the advertisement,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot, nodding gravely.

‘Yes,’ said Mrs Wilkins, dabbing furtively at her eyes, ‘and us both being so –’ – she blew her nose again a little – ‘miserable.’

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 6, 2009

    Wonderful Story

    I'd seen the film years ago and loved it. The book was written in 1922 and the English prose is just brilliant. It really made me pay attention to how the sentences were constructed and all the details that were being said with few words. Why don't we speak and write like that anymore? The only downfall is that after reading the book, the film isn't as good as it used to be. The book is delightful!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2002

    An appreciation for the beauty that is life

    An absolutely 'enchanting' story--truly gives one an appreciation for the beauty that is life. One of those books I want to read each year... so refreshing!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2002

    You must read this book

    A beautiful story that makes you realize that you can choose to change your life. You can choose love and happiness. It's enchanting and lovely.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 5, 2012

    Just a wonderful book, one of my all-time favorites. The fact it

    Just a wonderful book, one of my all-time favorites. The fact it was writen over 80 years ago, yet is still a timely and wonderful read, speaks well of it. A group of strangers, all with their eccentricities, come together in a vacation rental in Italy and the results are fun, cleverly-crafted and heartwarming. I also saw the film, but didn't think it compared to the book. I would say women would enjoy the book more than men, although it's not silly or "girly." Take this one with you on vacation, or just curl up in a big chair and enjoy--you'll be glad you did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 23, 2012

    I'm shocked at the anonymous 1 star ratings. Look at the same b

    I'm shocked at the anonymous 1 star ratings. Look at the same book with different covers and most reviewers gave it raves. NPR gave it raves. Must be a campaign of vindictiveness, or they prefer the simplicity of Harlequin Romances. It is a wonderful, uplifting read and a great anticdote to a depressed and jaded mind.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Story Seeped in Beauty and Truth “To Those who Apprecia

    A Story Seeped in Beauty and Truth

    “To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April.”

    This simple advertisement changed the course of four women’s lives forever. Mrs. Wilkins spends her days in fear of her husband, unloved and unable to love she wishes to have some time to do exactly what she wants, without having to pretend to be virtuous. Mrs. Arbuthnot carefully fills her days with good works, trying to ignore the distance between her and her once beloved husband. Lady Caroline wants to only be left truly alone, with no one “grabbing at her”. Mrs. Fisher desires time to sit and savor her memories of better times and people. Together they chose to escape dreary London and rent the castle named San Salvatore; spending a month in “heaven” as Mrs. Wilkins comes to call it.

    Set against the beautiful Mediterranean scenery we see what each of the main characters are struggling with and how their chance holiday to San Salvatore allows them to change for the better. Each woman blossoms under the magic of flowers and sea and beauty and each other. By the end of this miraculous April they bare very little resemblance to their London selves. Von Arnim instantly pulls you in and introduces the characters in such a way as to let you get to know them very quickly. You see their lives and motivations, what haunts them and their deeper desires –especially with the help of Mrs. Wilkins insight. This book is about the inner life and not so much the outer show the characters put on.

    When I think of this book what comes to mind is the word beautiful. I’m not sure whether it is the writing or the imagery, but all you can think of is beauty. At the beginning of this book I found the rate of information given hard to digest, but as the story went on either the rate decreased or I might have gotten used to it. I’m not sure which. Either way it all worked out in the end and didn’t take away from my overall reading experience.

    This was a lovely book and well worth the effort. Sadly, I originally planned on giving it four stars until toward the end. The way the deception at the end of the book was handled really bothered me and frankly lost the book a star. I do, however, like this book well enough to try and search out others by Elizabeth von Arnim, who lived a very fascinating life in her own right.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommend!!

    This is a great book about how four women come to share a medieval castle in Italy. Each of them experience the effects of a much needed escape from their every day lives to this magical place. Each character experiences the sudden stillness of the mind and works through their own issues to finally submit to the moment and place. I think this story is very relevant in our current time as everyone is going going going all the time. This book explores what it is like to all of sudden stop and come to live in the moment.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 12, 2010

    A Great Escape for the Cold Winter Months

    This story begins in the dreary, gray backdrop of rainy England in March and moves to sunshine-filled, flower-drenched Italy in April. The story is one of transforming yourself and accepting the people around you for who they are. It is a wonderful book to cozy up to on a bleak winter's day.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2004

    a beautiful novel

    This text is so wonderful to read. The different story lines bring you into the magical place that the characters are staying in for the summer. The novel includes: symbols as well as friendship and love.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2014

    Lovely story.

    Lovely story of four women who go from being strangers to friends during a shared vacation. The setting for the story is beautiful. Not for those who prefer explicit sex and vampires in their reading material.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 1, 2013

    Loved this story

    Wonderful story for lifting your spirits.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2015

    A delightful period piece before computers imagine a month

    Without tv radio computers e mail just snail mail and books. Could you think this would be restful? lost love in war old unfaithful husband and cold husband and all find love or renew love again and what could be nicer m.a.@sparta

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2015

    This was a charming movie with delightful scenery

    For those into old books she wrote elizabeth and her german garden non fiction

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    HEPASTOIOUS CABIN

    Here

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    Really enjoyed it.

    Really enjoyed it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)