Sunday, March 29, 2009
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim
Maybe twenty years ago this 1922 novel was made into a Merchant-Ivoryesque film that I really enjoyed and it turns out the adaptation was straight up, the novel is funny and pretty and simple in all the same ways. What's interesting though is the use of point of view is actually quite good in the novel, so you would think the absence of the characters' thoughts would be problematic in the film. But it turns out the characters are thinking in ways that are very consistent with the ways they are behaving so the only losses are some funny and fine turns of phrase (which would be a more noticeable loss if the dialogue weren't also funny and full of fine turns). But regardless the novel is a good example of third person omniscience. It's a big house novel in which four British women rent an Italian villa and have their senses reawakened and as go the senses so goes the heart...so love blooms all around. It's like The Secret Garden for grown-ups. Nowadays I suspect this would be written in four rotating first person views, but I really liked the consistency of the voice and how it held to one point of view per scene but actually used the movement from head to head (perspective to perspective) to create the sense that the novel was moving forward even though most of the action involved arguing over who would pour the tea in the garden and who would get to use Mrs. Fisher's pen.