Pining for the West

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim | October 30, 2009

I first came across Elizabeth von Arnim when I was rooting around in a second-hand bookshop years ago. I saw a beautiful, small, slim volume bound in calf skin with lovely gold edges. I had to buy it whatever the contents were.

However I had struck gold as the book was called Elizabeth and Her German Garden and it turned out to be a book based on the author’s life as a wife, mother and gardener. As a keen gardener the whole thing appealed to me and I really loved it.

The book was first published in 1898 but my edition was printed in 1914, that fateful year. I was intrigued as there was no clue as to who the author was and as I bought the book before the existence of the internet I had to do a bit of detective work and I eventually discovered that it was written by Elizabeth von Arnim.

I managed to track down her other books and a few years after that (the BBC) made an adaptation of her most famous book, The Enchanted April.

It’s a story about four very different women who are unhappy with the lives which they are leading and are desperate for a change of scene. After seeing an advert in The Times for a medieval castle in Italy, available to rent for the month of April, they end up sharing it to make it more affordable.

San Salvatore turns out to be a magical place for them.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and went on to read everything else which von Arnim had written which I could find.

I later discovered that Elizabeth was the cousin of Katherine Mansfield, who was quite a famous short story writer. Katherine’s other claim to fame was that she ‘bolted’ from her husband after only one week of marriage. I’d love to know why she gave up so quickly. Must have been quite a scandal at the time.



  1. Hi, ive just come across your blog and have added it to my blogroll. I am keen on family history too and have ancestors in scotland mainly around Glasgow.


    Comment by beingmaisie — November 1, 2009 @ 9:50 am

    • Hi Gill, I was born in Glasgow and lived there for the first 5 years before moving a bit further north. The population grew enormously during the industrial revolution and my lot originally came from the east of Scotland, where I now live. What are the surnames of your Scottish ancestors? Do you live in Basildon? We lived in Braintree for a couple of years, about 30 years ago now. I’ve blogrolled you. You’re braver than me with those chickens.

      Comment by piningforthewest — November 1, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

  2. I watched Enchanted April when I was on bedrest for my twins and promptly had my husband go out and buy a copy of the book for me. I loved it so much I got it for my mother and sister for Xmas that same year. I have had “Elizabeth and Her German Garden” on my bookshelf for years, and haven’t read it yet. Maybe this winter while I’m pining for sunshine I’ll treat myself.

    For some reason, I haven’t read Katherine Mansfield yet either.

    Comment by JaneGS — November 1, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

    • You’ve got twins, I always hoped for twins, I’m envious of you. Must be hard work though. I think you will really enjoy Elizabeth and her German Garden. I’ve been pining for some sunshine for the last 3 summers, but no luck. Summer sunshine seems to be a thing of the past in Scotland now.

      Comment by piningforthewest — November 1, 2009 @ 10:51 pm

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