Written and set in the 1920s, The Enchanted April is a truly beautiful novel. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this book may not be for you. However, if you enjoy stories that focus upon characters, The Enchanted April definitely does this, and comes highly recommended.
The novel begins in a club in Hampstead, UK, where Lotty Wilkins and Rose Arbuthnot formally meet for the first time, although Lotty already knows Rose by sight. Both women are drawn to an advertisement in The Times, for a mediaeval castle in Italy, which will be available to rent in April.
Both Lotty and Rose are married, and neither is entirely content. Lotty, by nature painfully shy, tends to fear her husband, Mellersh. She also feels out of place with his work connections, friends, and family, who form the entire social circle in which the two of them mix. Rose has become estranged from her own husband, Frederick, who earns his living by writing memoirs about the mistresses of kings, a fact that his religious wife cannot accept.
Lotty and Rose write to enquire about the mediaeval castle, but discover that the rent is too expensive. They decide not to give up, but instead to advertise for two more women, with whom to share the holiday and expenses. They receive precisely two responses in total, from Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester. And, after various difficulties with Mellersh, who strongly objects to the idea of his wife going away without him, the two women duly leave for Italy, expecting their guests to arrive later, although both Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline end up arriving early, intending to secure the best rooms.
Mrs. Fisher, a widow, is older than the other women, and initially appears abrasive and judgmental. Lady Caroline is extremely beautiful, and yet, disillusioned, and desperately wanting her holiday to function as a complete rest cure.
The descriptions of the beautiful house and gardens are a pleasure to read and, from a character development point of view, the novel is excellent. The female friendships remain central to the story, although the husbands, along with Thomas Briggs, the owner of the mediaeval castle, do join the ladies by the end of the book, and there are some romantic storylines.
I adore the characters in this novel, and find myself wondering about what happened to them after the story ended. I like to imagine that some of the friendships formed on this holiday would have endured.