Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Naxos. Jul. 2023. 3:49 hrs. ISBN 9781781984703. $15. F
Von Arnim’s (The Enchanted April) semi-autobiographical novel invites listeners to enter the beauty of a German garden. First published in 1898 and now available through a new recording, narrated by Lucy Scott, this work describes the joys of Elizabeth’s Pomeranian garden, interwoven with her entertaining musings on German and English society in the late 1800s. Written as diary and journal entries rather than a traditional novel, Elizabeth’s story leads listeners through the year as seasons change and guests come to visit. Through her social commentary and satirical portrayal of her husband, von Arnim addresses social standards of the time, including educating children, women’s roles in the home, women in politics, and clergy roles in the community. Scott’s narration is adept, bringing out Elizabeth’s dry humor and communicating her liveliness and wit. Though Elizabeth’s commentary is engaging, the litany of botanical names may be daunting for some.
VERDICT Although not a typically plotted novel, von Arnim’s (1866–1941) work showcases the joy of gardening and her struggles with 1800s societal standards. A delight for gardeners and fans of Barbara Pym, Jane Austen, and E.F. Benson.
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