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4.3 out of 5 stars35
4.3 out of 5 stars
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2003
To me, this is much the best of Von Arnim's writing. Describing the joys and tribulations of a young English woman marrying a German aristocrat she centres on the haphazard creation of her garden and the activities of her children in an examination of European mores.

Her tone is anything but dusty. A top-selling author of her day she seems to have more in common with - the best - Sunday newspaper columnists of today than with her contemporaries. She battles both with chauvanism and the demands of running a country house which threaten to quell her free-wheeling attitude to life, in a style as fresh as it was at the turn of the century.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2008
This tale, which recounts Elizabeth Von Arnim's discovery of the joys of gardening in the remote German countryside, is a real breath of fresh air. Von Arnim married young to a much older German aristocrat and found herself in an alien and elite world which reeks of dryness and dust - a captive world. Clearly a free spirit, and an unconventional character, it is facinating to read of Von Arnim's liberation through the rebellious act of creating her garden. However, the story is not just about the garden. It also offers up Von Arnim's wonderful, razor sharp, and somewhat wicked observations of the stultifying aristocratic set in which she finds herself. I love, in particular, the descriptions of her almost comedically chauvinistic husband, who she laughs both with and at. Although a snob herself, and somewhat arrogant, Von Arnim recognises her own failings and is quite happy to puncture her own bubble, which helps keep the reader on her side. Her fiercely independent (for her time) nature, rapier like wit and keen intelligence are refreshing to encounter in this very well written book. Von Arnim was a successful author in her time and I think it is time her books were re-discovered by a modern audience.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 1999
Elizabeth and her German Garden is a joy: aspiring Gertude Jekylls may not find the horticultural tips they are looking for, but anybody who delights in communing with the earth in their own little corner of half-tamed nature, whilst blithely ignoring the pressures of family and day-to-day life, will find a kindred spirit in Elizabeth.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
What a beautiful book. I'm on a bit of a `Virago' kick at the moment and this was another wonderful find for me. Von Arnim's writing is eloquent as well as being witty and I love her astute observations of not only the world around her, but society in general at that time.

Set in the remote German countryside and told in a diarised format, this is the story of a year in the development of Elizabeth's garden, and how she seeks solace in it to escape from her dull marriage to the incredibly chauvinistic `Man of Wrath.' She flouts convention somewhat as within society at that time, gardening was not the `done' thing for women of her class, though unfortunately she is not permitted to do any of the work herself and employs a gardener to carry out the most mundane of her tasks, much to her frustration. We learn of her mistakes and her triumphs as she nurtures and establishes her garden and really get a sense of the kind of person she is.

Von Arnim is an author with many interesting facets to her character- on one hand she can be very self-deprecating and conveys a real sense of loneliness and isolation, then on the other she practically pushes away those people who *do* try to get close to her with her razor sharp tongue. I found it particularly poignant that her only real friends seem to be her plants- it grew quite saddening at times and I really felt for her. Then again, with a husband like hers, it was no surprise that she sought solace in her garden and in trying to create beauty somewhere else as I get the impression that she wasn't particularly loved by him. She looks down at other popular occupations at the time too, much to her husbands chagrin, deeming dressmaking as being frivolous- much preferring to study or spend time outside- and is thought of as a bit eccentric by her neighbours, which I think is a notion she rather welcomes.

Ultimately, I found this to be a thoroughly fascinating read, particularly as I am an avid gardener myself- it is a real testament to the calibre of the authors writing that this has been reprinted so many times since its initial publication in 1898 and still remains so popular. I can't wait to read more by this author in future- I have `Enchanted April' to read next. I would highly recommend this for a bit of escapist reading this spring.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2013
Don't come to this book for gardening advice, nor even a clear idea of what a garden should be, because this is precisely what Elizabeth is trying to work out for herself, directly in conflict with the traditions and values of Baltic gardeners on great estates. Elizabeth, herself, is a bit of a flowering in the dull and rigid social mores of German noblility. The stark contrast between how she wishes to live (chicken salad in the garden) and the heavy formality of provincial life is played out in this delightful book which, given its near lack of plot, is barely a novel. If you want to read something that will make you really smile and deeply sumpathise with the central character, then this is the book for you. If you are looking for something more suspenseful and plot driven, don't pick this up until you are ready to be delighted.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2014
This is a book about so much more than a garden. It begins with the young wife and mother rhapsodising about being alone(apart from a servant or two of course) and neglecting her family duties. Elizabeth charmingly resents any intrusion into her private world, she is very witty about neighbours and unsolicited guests. She is wonderfully out spoken in her(what some would consider) selfishness, especially when you remember she is writing in the 1890's. It is a very self centred piece but she is still somebody I would like to know. The short introduction by Elizabeth Jane Howard gives just the right amount of background, although I would recommend reading it afterwards so that you can make up your own mind about the charms of the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2014
This gem of a book is nothing like the absurd cover - which makes it look like some sloppy bodice ripper. The novel is elegant and acerbic and in love with gardens. It makes you wonder if book publishers ever both to read the books they design the covers for !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2011
If you are interested in gardening and lifestyles of the early 20th century then this book is for you. This is a wonderfully funny , informative and eccentric book. She describes her house and home life in a very different way, which evokes a strong atmosphere of the time. She rejects the normal social requirements expected of a woman in her position.
Her husband is described as the Man of Wrath and her children are called after their months of birth. She is frustrated by her circumstances but loves her house and garden.
This is a very easy and quick read, but also informative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2013
Book in excellent condition and one of my favourite authors.....she wrote in beautiful prose, but with much more going on, with different psychological layers. A great, quick read.
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on 4 February 2015
Haven't read this for years but it was my first Elizabeth Von Arnim novel and I went on to read every one of her brilliant books. This one gave me the joy of the garden, the April, May and June babies, and 'the man of wrath' - and I have been telling people about this author for 50 years . .. I bought this book as a friend of mine wanted to borrow my copy. I'm afraid I was too mean to send mine to France and I wasn't sure it would make the journey as it is so old - so I have bought this new copy and plan to send it to her immediately. She has moved to a house in the middle of the french countryside and I hope this inspires her to start here own garden. My friend Muriel also has the same wonderful sense of humour as Elizabeth so I hope she enjoys it - I will ask her to write her own review if she loves it as much as I did.
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The Enchanted April (Vintage Classics) by Elizabeth Von Arnim (Paperback - 9 July 2015)

Enchanted April [DVD]
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Elizabeth and Her German Garden (Classic Reprint)
Elizabeth and Her German Garden (Classic Reprint) by Elizabeth Elizabeth (Paperback - 30 July 2012)

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