The Enchanted AprilThe Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

this refers to the audiobook version.

it always surprises me, how involved one can get in a well-written story about people’s lives when not much actually happens in the book. in this book (when is it set? it feels pre-WWI, but i’m not sure), four women leave icky England for a month in an Italian castle.

all of these women would be totally acceptable in polite society–there are no firebrands, no bluestockings, no nascent feminists or communists in the lot. but their inner lives are chaotic and intense, each woman’s feelings and dilemmas elucidating a different aspect of womanhood.

the author does a fabulous job of teasing out her protagonists’ thoughts, reactions, feelings, and prejudices. the interplay between the four is almost always shown at some level of polite conflict. yet the conflict isn’t without purpose, and the women are not carved in stone; they think, they reflect, and they change.

the book is really quite a tour de force of how these women interact, minutely observed. my only disappointment with the book is that the author doesn’t stick with that–the book starts to lose interest for me when she brings on the men. here’s the thing: she’s so good at the women that the men are just dull in comparison, and the women turn away from each other to turn pretty much their full attention on the men.

there simply isn’t enough literature about women’s friendships sans men-as-lodestone–this book seemed to be heading that way, and so it was a disappointment when, after a beautifully-detailed start, it left the women to be cliches in the end.