The Enchanted April

by the Author of Elizabeth and her German Garden. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1923. vi+313 pp. $1.90.
IN The Enchanted April the reader shares a little of the magic spell which a month in an Italian villa on the Mediterranean casts over its four incongruous inhabitants. Of actual plot there is little; of atmosphere there is enough to soften the outlines agreeably and to give life to characters which are sketched rather than drawn, suggested through contrast and implication rather than pictured through exact definition and description. This entertaining book tells, with sustained lightness of touch, of the enchantment wrought by pure beauty on four English women, previously unknown to each other, and assembled for the month of April under one romantic roof, drawn thither by a common desire to escape from their habitual environments.
The fantastic tale is entertaining, humorous, shrewdly sophisticated, and unmistakably European. It would make an agreeable traveling companion on a railway journey, a pleasant volume to read aloud to a not too-seriously minded friend, or to pick up in a country-house on a rainy Sunday. Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Fisher would probably prove far more amusing companions than we should be likely to come across on any house-party; Lady Caroline contributes a large share of magic to the enchanted April; and to lovely Rose we feel far less inclined to cry ‘Go!’ than ‘Stay!’
The quality of the humor is unlike the brand which enlivens an American book. At moments an apprehensive Puritan might fear that he was being hurried over thin ice which, if it should break, would plunge him into unsuspected depths of continental wickedness; but a more seasoned explorer feels perfect confidence that, even if the ice should give way (which it never does), the water would be scarcely ankle-deep. After all the depth of the water is more important than the strength of the ice.
Some of the author’s references to men in general and husbands in particular recall the days of the ‘ Man of Wrath,’ when Elizabeth was as much at home in her German Garden as she is to-day on her Italian terrace; but through the enchantment of environment even Men of Wrath turn to husbands of tender solicitude. The traditional words which close a fairy tale might well prove the benediction which dismisses the actors in this sprightly and sophisticated fantasy.
In putting down the finished volume one has the agreeable sense of having sipped a glass of fruity Italian wine, light, sparkling, and effervescing, pleasantly aromatic and mildly warming. Perhaps after the bubbles have settled there is not quite so much wine in the glass as we had thought, but at least there are no bitter lees. The refreshing draft has stimulated without inebriating. It is as different from German beer as it is unlike American grape-juice.