One of my very favourite books of all time is Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. A deceptively simple story of four English women in the 1920s who are oppressed – not politically or physically but by age, domesticity, husbandly expectations and beauty – and who discover their own versions of true happiness in an Italian villa. The plot is slight but the characters seem very realistically drawn and the descriptions of the villa and its garden make me feel that I am sat in warm dappled shade, scented by lilac and jasmine. It is an unashamedly feel-good book and one I turn to whenever I am in need of a dose of the warm-fuzzies.
So far, so good.
It was, therefore, with some hesitation that I opened up a copy of Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen since the blurb suggested that I was about to read a version of my old favourite, updated to the present day and reset on an isolated New England island community. Lets be honest – I was very much afraid that someone was about to walk over all my memories of a beloved story.
As it turns out I was to be very pleasantly surprised by this update. The author obviously loves Enchanted April as much as I do and may even well have read it as many times as I have! The characters have retained their original charms, personalities and problems (even most of the names are the same) but are well-drawn as 21st Century individuals. I particularly liked the way that Mrs Fisher has been brought up to date (since her nostalgia for the days of the great Victorians seemed to be the hardest to modernise) and I appreciated the way that Rose and Lottie are now mothers (yet not to perfect children…).
If you fancy reading something light I can heartily recommend either of these books. April first if you appreciate the historical context but either way round would work. And then hang on to your copy to reread whenever April, or August, seem too far away…