By Elizabeth von Arnim
Rating 4/5 Stairs
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 1000, The Times.
- Mrs. Lotty Wilkins – Shy and quiet (and a bit miserable), she feels the need to be a part of this beautiful landscape.
- Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot – Having pushed away her own happiness for years, she too feels the pull of the castle San Salvatore.
- Lady Caroline Dester – Looking for a getaway to a quiet place to be alone where no one knows her.
- Mrs. Fisher – The eldest (and crankiest) of the foursome, widowed Mrs. Fisher wants to be left in peace so she can sit and remember.
These four women from different backgrounds travel from London to Italy for the month of April. When they arrive at San Salvatore, Lotty is the first to fully realize the affect the castle has on her. Lotty becomes a different person, speaking her mind and allowing the beauty of her surroundings to enter herself.
[W]hile this was the simple happiness of complete harmony with her surroundings, the happiness that asks for nothing, that just accepts, just breathes, just is.
As the month continues to pass, each of the women begins her journey to find happiness again, the setting slowly working it’s spell on all of them. The writing was lovely, and at times quite humorous.
She was stirred. It was that Mrs. Wilkins. She was enough to stir anybody. And she was undoubtedly encouraged by Lady Caroline, who, in her turn, was no doubt influenced by the Chianti.
The first two-thirds or so of the book was great. We learn about the women and their pasts, we watch them learn and come to understandings at this month-long girls get away. I would have been satisfied with them discovering truths about themselves and the bonds forms among them. However, the last part of the book (spoilers!) turns to love.
I’ll try to say this with as few spoilers as possible here. As a modern day woman, I found the ultimate endings for Lotty and Rose hard to fathom. Their husbands both act out in their own interests and the happy endings featuring them felt a bit forced to me. I suppose it was a nice romantic ending for all, but I didn’t find it satisfying, especially for Rose.
I did enjoy the journey and growth the four women experienced, the lovely setting, and the beautiful writing. Overall I would recommend this book.
Thanks to First to Read for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.