Back in the 1920s (when this was written), four women from London decide to go on holiday to Italy together. It all starts when dowdy, weary Lotty Wilkins sees an advertisement offering that people can rent an Italian castle for the month of April for a reasonable price. She knows she could never afford it herself, and asks a passing acquaintance if she would like to go there with her. That worthy, pious, and also weary lady, Rose Arbuthnot, agrees, though she really doesn't know Lotty at all. Together, they advertise for more people to join them on this vacation, to split the bill and make it more manageable. Only two women respond -- crabby, proud Mrs. Fisher and beautiful but chilly Lady Caroline Dester.
The four of them arrive at the castle, San Salvatore, in search of rest and a chance to get away from their troubles. Instead, they find joy, love, and peace. In seeking to escape their troubles, they each come to realize that they are the source of their worst troubles. When they learn to lay down their inner hindrances and become more their true selves, they each blossom into new and happier people, one after the other.
The castle's name, San Salvatore, means Savior in Italian. Lottie repeatedly refers to it as heaven, and I think you could read this whole book as an allegory if you wanted to. By coming to faith in Christ and being near him, we find joy, love, and peace, and shed our worldly troubles as we learn to put off our old selves and become more Christlike. This makes us new and happier people. Whether von Arnim meant this as an allegory or not, I don't know, but she certainly chose the name San Salvatore on purpose -- even if just to signify that their time there saved these four women in various ways from the troubles that bedeviled them before.
This book sat on my TBR shelves for over a year before the #kindredspiritnetwork chose it as the read-along book this month. It was exactly the book I needed to read right now, and I'm so happy I could discuss it with other lovely bookstagrammers! If you're looking for a bright, cheerful, uplifting read this spring, do yourself a favor and pick this up! It reminded me of A Room with a View melded with The Blue Castle in a way.
|(Mine from my Instagram account.)|
Particularly Good Bits:
Why couldn't two unhappy people refresh each other on their way through this dusty business of life by a little talk -- real, natural talk about what they felt, what they would have liked, what they still tried to hope? (p. 7).
Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere: every sort of colour, piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers -- the periwinkles looked exactly as if they were being poured down each side of the steps -- and flowers that grow only in borders in England, proud flowers keeping themselves to themselves over there, such as the great blue irises and the lavender, were being jostled by small, shining common things like dandelions and daisies and the white bells of the wild onion, and only seemed the better and the more exuberant for it (p. 76).
Was it possible that loneliness had nothing to do with circumstances, but only with the way one met them? (p. 88).
...kind ladies smiled, reason or no. They smiled -- not because they were happy, but because they wished to make happy (p. 95).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. No untoward scenes or violence. Might have been a mild curse word or two, but I can't remember any.
This is my 45th book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club and my 14th for #TheUnreadShelfProject.