Friday, July 22, 2016

The Enchanting "Enchanted August," by Brenda Bowen

The word “enchanted” is itself enchanting and appealing. At the library recently, in the new books section, a colorful cover with the title “Enchanted August” (Viking, 2015) exerted its magic on me even before I even realized that it was a modern retelling of the itself enchanting 1922 novel,“Enchanted April” (about which I posted here on12/20/14). That novel was by Elizabeth von Arnim, about four English women who don’t know each other but band together to rent a castle in Italy by the water for a month. The current novel, by Brenda Bowen, is set in the present, and the castle becomes a huge “cottage” on an island in Maine. The four (American) co-renters are three women and an elderly gay man. Although the two novels take place almost a century apart, the dynamics are similar: at first, the co-tenants are awkward with each other, angle for the best rooms, get annoyed at each other at times, try to keep their distance from each other. But the place works its magic, and they take care of each other in various ways, and there is joy and healing. Other characters who enter the story at various times include the owner of the cottage, two husbands, three children, and various local people. An added appeal for me is its “take a small group of people and put them in a fairly confined space and see what time reveals” aspect, of which readers of this blog may remember that I am quite fond. This novel tells a delightful story, and is a lovely variation on the usual “summer” story; although told with a light touch, it shares thoughtful if not particularly original insights about what is important in life. Highly recommended for anyone looking for enjoyable summer reading that doesn’t make you feel it is a “guilty pleasure” (not that there is anything wrong with that!).

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