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A remedy for the spring-time blues

A remedy for the spring-time blues

There are always seasons in life when you feel the need to get away from your day-to-day, and I have found myself in just such a season.

The new birth of spring makes me pine for one within myself. The rising temperature leads me to long for change. My usual, ordinary surroundings have become heavy and dull and I wish for another window to look out of. I want to have a skip in my step but can only seem to trudge through duties. I need a holiday. 

This mood brought to mind a book I read not too long ago, “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim. Not only is it apropos for this time of year, it gives the perfect remedy to the malaise I’ve fallen into. Filled with depth, humor and buoyancy, I found this book to be such a refreshing, thought-provoking read.

Set in the 1920s, the novel begins in England. Mrs. Lotty Wilkins is perusing the newspaper when she notices an advertisement: a small Italian castle to rent for the month of April. The allure of it impels the quiet, timid Lotty to approach a stranger, Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot, about the ad. Both are wives in unhappy marriages and are victims of the drudgery of daily life. They both have saved their nest eggs. And both decide to sacrifice their savings’ original intended purpose of practicalities for the novelty and change of a European getaway. But aside from that, Lotty and Rose are rather dissimilar characters.

Lotty is a sincere, genuine soul whose quirky awkwardness quickly grows endearing. She has only been married a few years and so the honeymoon phase has faded, leaving Lotty stuck and at a loss as to how to fix it. The Italian oasis seems to have a magical effect on her, transforming her from a plain, quiet girl to a unique, candid young woman. Her natural kindness finds fertile soil in the radiant, floral beauty that surrounds the villa and it rapidly burgeons into an authentic affection for everyone around her.

On the other hand, Rose’s development takes a bit more time. She is a rigidly religious woman who dumps all her love and energy into charity work. Her husband is a successful author of racy novels and has grown distant due to his wife’s disapproval of his works. Both are neglected by the other spouse but cannot seem to break through the wall that has come between them. However, Rose does not see her own part to play in their withdrawal. It’s only by their physical separation that she begins to understand their emotional distance.

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An even greater variety of characters is thrown into the mix when Rose and Lotty invite two other women along to help reduce the expense for their Italian villa. Those two women come in the form of the cold, elderly spinster, Mrs. Fisher, and the gorgeous, aloof socialite, Lady Caroline Dester. Mrs. Fisher lives in the past and holds tightly onto her conceptions of Victorian proprieties. She is snobby, pretentious and has no inclination to have any sort of relationship with the other women in the castle except as the head hostess and controller of the holiday. But Mrs. Fisher’s unfriendly austerity finds a formidable foe in the ever-growing ebullience of Lotty.

Lady Caroline also makes no attempt to get to know her fellow housemates. She has escaped the hustle and bustle of her social life which she loathes for the overabundance of attention she always receives. While she scoffs at the superficiality and rolls her eyes at the burdensome lifestyle, the quiet of the beautiful Italian scenery is more rattling than restful than she would have suspected.

I admire von Armin’s magnificent ability to develop such a wide array of characters in such a short amount of time. You see them grow and get insights into each of their inner dialogues, deepening your understanding and allowing for a connection. At the outset I expected this novel to be a simple, enjoyable read and indeed it was. However, I got a bit more than I bargained for. I learned some lessons too. One of them being that opportunities to experience something new are more accessible to me than I generally believe them to be. All it takes is being attentive (perhaps to a newspaper ad) and having the bravery to shift my daydream to a reality.

But for times when caution can’t be thrown to the wind and practicalities are valid obstacles, this book has still taught me the importance of attentiveness. Like Lotty, one can be changed by the simple beauty of the flowers in your own front garden; and that change in yourself can affect others, renewing the people in your own life as well. So when life starts feeling heavy, this book is a great way to lighten your mood and spark some hope.

(Anna Barren teaches fifth grade and is a lifelong lover of books. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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