Whenever I find myself bogged down by read too much Faulkner or Steinbeck (or other heavy, serious literature), I take the time to re-read this book. Or Anne of Green Gables. It’s that sort of book: warm, tender, refreshing.
Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Arbuthnot are weary. Weary of social pressures and distant husbands, weary of constantly giving and never receiving anything in return, weary of pretending to be something they’re not. All this weariness is bundled up under the dismal weather that is London in the winter. On a whim, after seeing an advertisement in the paper, they decide to inquire about a castle for rent in Italy.
One thing leads to another, and in April they find themselves (along with two other renters they picked up through inquiries in the paper) embarking on a venture unlike anything they’ve ever dared before. The time in Italy is a time of transformation, and we watch as each woman in turn comes alive again, surrounded by sun and wisteria.
The changes that take place in each woman’s life are subtle and wholesome. This is not a dump-my-husband-to-go-to-Italy-and-try-desparately-to-get-the-most-out-of-life sort of story. It’s a story of personal growth and rejuvenation. Of spouses rediscovering what they first loved about each other. Of the way that human love begets more love, and how true human sympathy can unlock depths in even the crustiest of souls. This story of deep and memorable characters, which intertwines humor and compassion, is heartfelt without being sappy or sentimental. It’s a book to treasure over and over again.