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on 7 October 2001
Elizabeth von Arnim lived an uncoventional life. Despite being a member of German aristocracy through marriage, she rejected the frivolous life-style of her class and found refuge in books and nature.

The Solitary Summer is the very funny and life-affirming account of a year at her summer residence. She writes of her children, of her attempts at gardening and the rigours of running her household. A theme throughout is her longing to throw down her responsibilities and escape to the countryside or to her library.

Von Arnim was a feminist but one who recognised that wit was perhaps the best weapon in puncturing the chauvanism and narrow-mindedness of her age. Her voice rings out as caustic, playful and beguiling as it was over a century ago.
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on 1 April 2010
This is the follow-up to Elizabeth And Her German Garden and sees the author persuade her husband (Count Von Arnim) that they should have no visitors to their country retreat one summer so that her "soul may have time to grow". Even more than in her previous book this story is centred on the joys of being outdoors and of the intense pleasure the solitude and beauty of a well kept but rambling garden can bring. Elizabeth Von Arnim spends the summer reflecting on her life and the lives of those less fortunate, as well as on her April, May and June babies as they frolic around her speaking a quaint mixture of German and English. Von Arnim was a free spirit; fiercely intelligent and with an incisive wit at a time where such aptitudes were not always appreciated in a woman, and certainly not in an aristocratic one. The garden is the place she can escape from the stifling restrictions of her class and sex and she indulges in it to the full. If I have a slight criticsm of this book it is that I miss the razor sharp observations Von Arnim makes of her house guests and social set in German Garden, and the relegation of her difficult husband, "the Man of Wrath", to a minor supporting role. Still, Elizabeth's observations about life and her wonderfully clear and evocative style of writing make this book a delight.
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on 10 March 2014
The Enchanted April was such an enchanting book - and more profound than that - so I wanted to try another von Arnim immediately. This is less arresting, though still well written and individualistic. It is not a novel at all - no plot - but rather a reflective journal on a summer in the country. Von Arnim must have been quite a "feminist" in her day but now seems still to be too much in the doll's house and her little squirrelisms with regard to the "Man of Wrath" become irritating if not nauseating. Against this must be weighed a real delight in gardens and civilization along with an interesting social curiosity towards the less fortunate which is rather like the Victorian Lady Bountiful with self awareness. I am glad I read it, but would consider Gissing's Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft or Jerome's Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow more pressing along comparable lines.
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on 26 April 2011
As a gardener and a loner, this book conjures up a world which is sadly an impossibility I crave for. The author is a product of a time long since past, when the lady of the manor had a cook and a nanny and the means at her disposal to allow her to spend a summer doing what she so enjoys: wandering about her vast gardens with just a book and her imagination. How I envy her, so as pure escapism this book was just the ticket for me on my city balcony. The depictions of her gardens are vivid, but it is her descriptions of her husband and her children which lend most humour to this little gem. One to read and reread
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 June 2014
Elizabeth von Arnim (1866 - 1941) had an interesting life. She was British but was born in Australia and named Mary Annette Beauchamp. Her cousin was the writer Katherine Mansfield. In 1891, she married the Prussian Count von Arnim-Schlagenthin, and moved to Nassenheide, Pomerania, where the von Arnims had a family estate. They produced four daughters and a son, whose tutors included E. M. Forster and Hugh Walpole! When her husband was sent to prison for fraud, she supported herself by writing 'Elizabeth and her German Garden', which was semi-autobiographical. It was very successful and she followed it up with this book, 'The Solitary Summer.' In it, the dominating Count is called 'The Man of Wrath', yet in quite a sweet and affectionate way, it seems to me.
This is a charming and rather beautiful book. It is about a relatively uneventful summer, yet its interest never flags. I loved it. It is a lovely portrait of life in Prussia a century ago, yet in a way it seems quite modern. She is certainly a wealthy woman of her time, however, running a household composed of masters and servants and visiting the poor in the nearby village, and her children seem hardly to intrude upon her relaxation, obviously in the care of servants. They are educated every afternoon by the village schoolmaster, who comes to the house. Elizabeth plays with them and otherwise spends a lot of time contemplating in the garden.
Her thoughts are fascinating, however; she's an intelligent, quite introverted and private person who knows and describes her garden intimately and philosophises gently about life. A lovely book!
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on 22 April 2011
I loved this booked , I enjoyed the nostalgic look at life of that time. I so wish to vist the area and where they visited when they rode to the sea side. I started reading her books after Julia Bradbury's german travels on the . Wonderful.
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on 16 June 2014
I have von Arnim`s German Garden, and this is a lovely follow-on to that . Even though it was decades ago, the atmosphere is timeless.
A must (both books) fro any keen gardener.
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on 18 July 2015
If you garden with passion you will love this upbeat book but not a book for the underprivileged as you will find when Elizabeth pays a visit to the poor.t
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on 11 August 2016
Delightful, funny - the perfect read for summer.
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on 11 April 2015
A very pleasant read. Nice gentle story.
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