Friday, 22 January 2010

The pastor's wife (von Arnim)

I have been looking forward to reading von Arnim's books since beginning this challenge as I would consider her to be one of the stalwart Virago Modern Classics authors. I have both Elizabeth and her German garden, and The enchanted April, but I actually started with one of her lesser known novels - The pastor's wife. What an absolutely fantastic read!

The story opens with the heroine Ingeborg going to London to have a tooth looked at. The treatment takes less time than anticipated, so rather than returning home to her pretty frustrating life supporting her father, a bishop, when she sees an advert for an excursion to Lucerne in Switzerland, she makes a spur of the minute decision to go. I thought this was perhaps one of the best openings to a book that I have ever read and made me really warm to Ingeborg. On the tour, she is befriended by a german pastor, who by the end of the week proposes marriage to her! Ingeborg is a little bewildered by his conception of marriage which doesn't seem to revolve around love, but nonetheless accepts him by the end of the trip as he seems to offer an escape from her life with her parents. She returns home, and her parents are absolutely horrified (I also loved this bit - it made me laugh and cross my fingers and wonder what would happen) but the marriage goes ahead. The rest of the book tells the story of Ingeborg's life as a Pastor's Wife. Sadly, this occupation is not much better than being a bishop's daughter; her husband becomes remote and she bears endless children. When Edward, a painter, begins to pay her attention, it is inevitable that she will be swept off her feet...

I absolutely can't wait to read more von Arnim, although I will obviously be saving The enchanted April for April. Any recommendations as to which I should go for next?

Two Virago editions - I own the original green one.


  1. Did you, by any chance, buy this in the Oxfam near Magdalen? Because I saw that in there the day me and Naomi came to visit and resisted buying it because I have so many unread Von Arnims already and I actually said to Naomi - 'I'll leave that for Verity!'. It would be too funny if it was the same one!

    I have only read The Enchanted April, but I have Elizabeth and Her German Garden, The Caravaners, Love and Vera lined up to read. The Enchanted April was divine - I read it in August!

  2. Can't remember where I got it now - it may well have been...or the other one down on St Giles! I want to read The caravaners next...

  3. Do you have The Caravaners? I've been looking out for that and Vera. I have this, The Enchanted April (LOVED it! the film is lovely too), Love and Elizabeth and her German Garden and think I may go for Love next.

  4. I desperately want The caravaners. I have Mr Skeffington, Enchante April and German Garden, and would love the others too. *hopes for them to surface in Oxfam soon*

  5. Oh, oh, oh: she's a MRE (Must Read Everything) author for me. I just read Fraulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther in November (it wasn't a favourite, but I still enjoyed it, especially because I have a 'thing' for epistolary novels). I'm trying to portion them out because I want them to last, and it's not hard to spin out the process because her books are hard to find second-hand in Canada.

  6. BIP - MRE what a fantastic phrase. I agree with you there - have just been reading Mr Skeffington this weekend :)