The plot is centered on four women who rent a medeival castle in Italy for the month of April in the 1920s. Each woman, initially, wishes to be alone to contemplate, for each has her own story. There's Lotty Wilkins, who is married to a mercenary solicitor called Mellersh Wilkins; Rose Arbuthnot seeks comfort in religion after a failed marriage to Frederick Arbuthnot, an author of salacious memoirs that she is embarassed to read; young Lady Caroline Dester wants to escape high society and its adoration of her; and old Mrs. Fisher wishes to think back to her childhood in the nineteenth-century when things were more refined and proper. Through the course of the month, the women open up, learn a little bit more about each other, and grow a little closer.
While I was initially attracted to this book because of the spine of the plot: four women stranded in one place, I wasn't entirely happy with the book.
My main problem with this book is the crux of the story. While the women do change, I feel that they do so primarily because of men. Though they go to the Castle to get away from men, it seemed to me that they needed the men to put their lives back in order. Hence, this is the main reason it loses its feminist stance. True, it is probably feminist for its time, considering it was written in the 1920, but as a 21st century reader, I find the book a little problematic.
Lotty and Rose make up with their husbands. Lady Caroline probably marries Mr. Briggs, and Mrs. Fisher is too old to get a man herself, and there's no hint that she will end up with one. Ironically, perhaps this is the book's message: get back with your menfolk and change them by taking them to an 'enchanted' castle, and you may only remain single and retain your independence if you are old like Mrs. Fisher. Perhaps that is the time to be really happy: Mrs. Fisher is the only one who is not attached to a man. And so, the transformation that she undergoes will have a greater efffect on her and for a longer period.