The story is of 4 very different women who go on holiday together in the 1920s to escape their lives in England. They are the downtrodden Lotty Wilkins and Rose Arbuthnot a sweet faced but sad woman who has buried her grief for her baby in religion. There is also the beautiful Lady Caroline Dester who is angry with the way her beauty makes her be treated like an object. Finally there is the much elder Mrs Fisher who is trapped in the past of her dead literary friends. They all stay in a castle in Mezzago and are overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. It changes all 4 women for the better and becomes something they will never forget.
The story was both sad and funny. For example it poked fun at the women such as Mrs Fisher who keeps thinking about being friends with the dead Ruskin. I like the mix of sad and funny as I do not like books that are really sad and where everyone dies. However I do not like ones where everything is taken very seriously all the time either.
The characters in the story were also very interesting. I also like how different they were and the exploring of their different personal problems. From Mrs Wilkins who escaped London to run away from her boorish husband who is obsessed with thrift. However when he actually appeared he was not nearly as bad as she said. Well he was actually rather silly really although obsessed with making money. However on to Lady Caroline who for me was really sad. She is 28 but her parents infantilise her because she is very beautiful. People even women forget because of her beauty that she has inner thoughts and feelings of her own. I did not like the book ending for her where it was implied she would marry the castle’s owner Mr Briggs who started worshipping her as beautiful object. I personally hope they did not get married as I think she would hate it.
The men although minor are also interesting particularly Frederick Arbuthnot or Mr Arundel. I liked in particular the bit where the reader realises he and Mr Arundel are one and the same person. It was also interesting to see him come to see Lady Caroline. However after seeing the castle like the women he was transformed and went back to his wife. Not in a sad way but in a soppy romantic way. It is strongly suggested at the end of the book that they were having sex which was quite entertaining. I bet there would be a baby on the way after the book’s ending.
Interestingly there is also a film of this book which since I enjoyed it so much I will have to watch.