The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim
(Summary taken from amazon.com) "A recipe for happiness: four women, one medieval Italian castle, plenty of wisteria, and solitude as needed.
The women at the center of The Enchanted April are alike only in their dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. They find each other—and the castle of their dreams—through a classified ad in a London newspaper one rainy February afternoon. The ladies expect a pleasant holiday, but they don’t anticipate that the month they spend in Portofino will reintroduce them to their true natures and reacquaint them with joy. Now, if the same transformation can be worked on their husbands and lovers, the enchantment will be complete."
This is a fairly quick read (I read it in one day). It has some wonderful descriptions of the castle and the gardens, especially the flowers. The characters are well developed and it is interesting to see their individual characteristics, quirks, strengths, and flaws. I liked Mrs. Wilkins a lot, I think she has this contagious happiness about her, once she gets to Italy. I love how she fully believes in the power of the place to heal their sorrows and their wounded hearts. A lot of this book is "cheesy," which is okay if that is what you want and expect. I think a lot of the healing and forgiving that happens is a little quick and unrealistic, but it's kind of fun to get caught up in the moment of the book. I had a hard time pinpointing a "point" of the book, but I think part of it was that being kind and loving towards other people brings out the best in them and you. Kindness heals a lot of wounds and heartache. Also, I think Lady Caroline's words sum up the story well. She said, "Beauty made you love, and love made you beautiful..." The beauty of the place made them open to love and kindness, and that love made them more beautiful outside and in.
I liked the story, and I'm glad I read it. It was fun for a summertime read. There are a few profane words, but not many. There are some innuendos, but it takes place in the early 1900's and so they are all quite innocent compared to today's standards.
Rating: PG+ (Some language, innuendos)
Recommendation: 16 and up. I don't think children younger than 16 would even be interested in or care about this book.