I just finished reading, more or less randomly, Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. Never read anything by her before, and knew next to nothing about her. WHY? Why on earth was this stuff never mentioned when I did my degree? Why has no one ever collared me and said ‘Rupert, you MUST read E von A, she’s a genius?’. It’s always nice to discover new stuff that you love, but I’m baffled that she should have passed me by for so long. Enchanted April is not only a beautiful, funny and inspiring story about the healing power of love and nature – it’s also written in a prose so fine and so polished it took my breath away. I have a suspicion that von Arnim’s been overlooked because she was a popular novelist, adapted by Hollywood, writing ‘women’s books’ that (in this case at least) have happy, positive messages. I don’t have a feminist drum to beat on this occasion – I leave that to the likes of Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus – but it blows my mind that she’s not mentioned in the same breath as James, Conrad et al. I shall obviously be reading more. I hope it lives up to Enchanted April.
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