The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (1922)

Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

The Enchanted April, the 1922 novel by the elusive Elizabeth Von Arnim, has stood the test of time as a journey of friendship and self-discovery.

Certain stories possess an irresistible charm that beckons readers to embark on captivating journeys of the heart and mind. Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel, The Enchanted April  is one such masterpiece, fueling the imagination and evoking a sense of wonder.

The Enchanted April is a lighthearted (yet not lightweight) tale of freedom to live an authentic life, and the transformative power of female friendship. This literary gem continues to engage readers even after a century, effortlessly weaving together picturesque landscapes, relatable characters, and heartfelt emotions.

Elizabeth von Arnim’s skillful portrayal of authentic characters is a testament to the enduring appeal of this novel. Through their joys, sorrows, and vulnerabilities, we find glimpses of our own humanity reflected in their journeys.

Lotty Wilkins, Rose Arbuthnot, Lady Caroline Dester, and Mrs. Fisher endear themselves to readers as we accompany them on their quests for the rediscovery of their true selves. Within the embrace of the Italian paradise, these four women embark on an exploration of their desires, dreams, and unfulfilled passions.

Beyond its engaging characters, The Enchanted April captivates with its vivid descriptions of the Italian Riviera’s sun-drenched landscapes. Elizabeth von Arnim’s prose transports us to idyllic gardens where vibrant flowers bloom, and the gentle Mediterranean breeze whispers secrets of serenity and renewal.

With each turn of the page, we are enveloped in a world that appeals to our senses, inviting us to breathe in the fragrant air and bask in the golden sunlight.

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the enchanted april by Elizabeth von Arnim - cover

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Plot Summary

Set against the backdrop of post-World War I England, the novel follows the lives of four seemingly dissimilar women whose paths happen to intertwine. Lotty Wilkins, Rose Arbuthnot, Lady Caroline Dester, and Mrs. Fisher respond to an advertisement inviting them to rent a medieval castle on the Italian Riviera for the month of April.

Eager to escape their unfulfilling lives, the four women embark on a journey that promises not only sunshine and beauty but also a chance for self-reflection and transformation.

Upon arriving at the idyllic San Salvatore, the magic of the place begins to work its charm on the ladies. The story delves into the women’s inner lives and desires, revealing their dreams, disappointments, and hidden aspirations.

As they immerse themselves in the Italian gardens and the soothing Mediterranean breezes, the ladies gradually shed their inhibitions and allow themselves to be transformed by the power of love and nature.


Themes, characters, & critical reception

The Enchanted April explores themes of liberation, personal growth, and the rekindling of one’s passions.

Lotty Wilkins, a timid and unfulfilled housewife, discovers her voice and inner strength in the embrace of San Salvatore. Burdened by her unhappy marriage, Rose Arbuthnot rediscovers her capacity for love and joy.

Additionally, the enigmatic Lady Caroline Dester, a famous socialite, learns to embrace vulnerability and opens herself to the possibility of genuine connection. Mrs. Fisher, a widow trapped in the memories of her past, finds solace and a renewed zest for life amidst the vibrant surroundings.

Elizabeth von Arnim’s nuanced character development paints a vivid portrait of women who defy societal expectations in their unique journeys of self-discovery. She highlights the universal desire for freedom, connection, and fulfillment through their interactions and revelations.

Since its publication, The Enchanted April has captivated readers and critics alike with its whimsical prose and profound storytelling. Contemporary reviews praised Elizabeth von Arnim’s ability to transport readers to the Italian Riviera, evoking a sense of escapism and tranquility.

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Enchanted April film

1991 film adaptation, titled Enchanted April
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Stage and film adaptations

The enduring appeal of The Enchanted April has inspired several adaptations, further cementing its place in popular culture. The novel was adapted into a successful 1935 film directed by Harry Beaumont and subsequently remade in 1991 by Mike Newell, gaining critical acclaim.

The story also reached the Broadway stage as a musical, with Matthew Barber’s theatrical adaptation premiering in 2003, receiving Tony Award nominations and captivating audiences with its enchanting portrayal of love and transformation.


What sets this literary treasure apart is its ability to strike a chord with readers across generations. Elizabeth von Arnim’s exquisite prose captures the essence of human emotions, unveiling the complexities of the human spirit with grace and authenticity.

Her storytelling continues to resonate, reminding readers of the universal yearning for personal freedom, authentic connections, and a life of joy and purpose.

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Enchanted April stage play

The stage musical went on to be performed in other venues,
including Hale Center Theater Orem
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A 1923 review of The Enchanted April

From the original review in the Oakland Tribune, January 1923:  The author of Elizabeth and her German Garden has written a humorous and satiric story of four women who rent an Italian castle.

“Elizabeth”* is to be thanked for the atmosphere and illusion she creates in The Enchanted April and she is to be congratulated warmly for Mrs. Wilkens.

It is an enchanted April this month in Italy, a story of smiles and solid enjoyment and one such as few writers could produce. 

One may question the powers of reformation in Italian breezes and views and may wonder at the rapid changes the characters undergo. But one will question and wonder a long time after reading the book. The charm and the impression are that enduring.

Mrs. Wilkens is a shy and retiring woman who defers so much to her husband that she is without color and character. No one knows when she is present, no one even thinks of her. The husband, on the other hand, is the life of every party.

Then there is Rose Arbuthnot, deeply religious and becoming more and more self-centered because of the estrangement in her family. Her husband has written some memoirs of famous women who are none too particular in many ways. This grieves Rose and she won’t take any of his money except to give to charity.

Four lives are indeed changed

Another character in the cast, Lady Caroline, is so beautiful and so winning she cannot be cold and rude for her features and her voice will not betray her intent. She is selfish and she wished to be alone, to go away from everyone she knows, that she might think for once in her life.

With a Mrs. Fisher, more selfish than any, a regular tyrant in securing her rights, Rose and Lotty Wilkens rent a castle in Italy for a month.

The charm is worked on Mrs. Wilkens first. She is filled with the most glorious sensation of happiness imaginable and tries right away to spread the feeling to the rest.

The spell of the castle and of Italy works on all and four lives are changed. This is the story which in outline sounds a bit like Pollyanna, but which, because of the bright lines, flashes of humor, and keen observation is the best book that the new year has yet disclosed.

*Elizabeth von Arnim identified herself only as “Elizabeth” or “The author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden” as her nom de plume on many of her earlier books.

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