Sunday, December 18, 2016

April Enchantment . . . and Beyond

I'm a sucker for British period dramas: Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, Bleak House, you name it. As much as I enjoy reading the books, I also love watching the stories come to life. Such is the case with The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. For years, I have been a fan of the film Enchanted April starring Miranda Richardson, Alfred Molina, and Joan Plowright. The film is simple and sweet amid a healthy dose of British-isms; a perfect film to watch with a cup of tea and cookies.

In reading the book, I realized that this is a rare moment in which both the book and the movie are excellent. The story is thus: four women from various backgrounds in 1920s England spend the month of April at San Salvatore, a castle in Italy. Two of the women, Mrs. Lotty Wilkins and Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot, use the time to escape their ungrateful and uncaring husbands. Lady Caroline Dester (or Scrap as she's affectionately called), uses the time to escape a life filled with "grabbing" admirers and a posh life that leaves her drained. Mrs. Fisher uses the time to enjoy her old age and to constantly reminisce about her dead literary friends, for she has no use for the living. These four women escape Hampstead and London in search of "Wisteria and Sunshine" in Italy and, after some initial bumps and language barriers, get that and so much more.

Von Arnim's delightful book is just that - delightful. The characters come to full bloom within Italy as they reach outside of their London comfort zone for something different, something wonderful. Even when Mr. Wilkins, a boorish and dominating man, and Mr. Arbuthnot, a writer of sordid and entertaining novels, visit their wives at San Salvatore, they can not escape Life fueled by beauty. Scrap only wants to be left alone, to enjoy her solitude among the flowers, yet she is denied that due to her beauty and blue blood; everyone wants to be around her and to take in her beauty. All she wants is a nap. However, when Mr. Briggs, the eccentric and kindhearted owner of the caste, stops by for a visit, Scrap finds herself to be the target of his admiration, even after he initially bestowed them upon Rose due to her classical looks. Mrs. Fisher wishes to remain with the dead, yet the dead speak words that have been repeated in her life for many years. Through San Salvatore, she finally realizes that she wishes to live among the living. Rose is a pious woman whose husband pays little attention to her; why spend time under the glaring eyes of God when there are so many admirers of his "naughty" books, one being Scrap herself? Lotty is scared to live her life with her husband; he tells her what to do and thinks nothing of it. However, Lotty is a free spirit, one who blossoms the most at the castle, thereby infecting everyone else with her willingness to reach out to something new.

How many of us want to do just that? Reach outside of our comfort zone to try something new, or make a new friend, or change our lives completely? Sometimes, all it takes is one small decision, one choice, and our lives are changed forever. As so many people say - Life is short. Don't waste it with regrets or "if only's". Hike that mountain, swim that ocean, travel, read a new book, make a new friend, etc. Although the book takes place in the 1920s, The Enchanted April is a guide for those who want more in their lives. Wisteria and Sunshine are quite nice.


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