The Novel Cure: Literary presciptions for being married

Elizabeth von Arnim's The Enchanted April provides the injection of luminosity and love that your wilting relationship needs

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The Independent Culture

Ailment: Being married

Cure: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

If you're married and wondering why this is an ailment, stop reading. Clearly you've won life's biggest lottery and found yourself a mate you can live with effortlessly, peaceably and productively. Congratulations! If, however, you find that your long-term relationship sometimes involves a struggle to maintain your sense of self in the face of constant compromise; if your marriage is stuck in a rut; or if the passing of the years has somehow served to push you and your partner apart, read on. Elizabeth von Arnim's neglected period piece from the 1920s provides the injection of luminosity and love that your wilting relationship needs.

Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot have both become jaded by their malfunctioning marriages. When they happen to spot the same advertisement in The Times, it calls to them both: "To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine," it reads, "Small mediaeval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain." In a bid for a gasp of happiness, the two women, though strangers, take the property together – and invite a couple of feistier examples of their gender, who have relationship issues of their own, to join them.

Within the peace of San Salvatore's white walls and bare stone floors – and with the help of the heat, juicy oranges, cliff-top walks and Domenico the gardener – the women begin to rediscover their capacity for sensuality and joy. Faces puckered by fear and worry smooth out, hearts that have been closed for years break open.

"I was a stingy beast at home," declares Lottie (Mrs Wilkins), "and used to measure and count… I wouldn't love Mellersh unless he loved me back, exactly as much… and as he didn't, neither did I." In the end, marriages are saved and loves re-ignited. If your long-term relationship isn't all that you hoped it would be, book a villa in Italy and read The Enchanted April on the journey out.

thenovelcure.com

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