Thursday, 22 April 2010

The solitary summer (Arnim) 382

Elizabeth Von Arnim's The solitary summer is a lovely, lyrical follow up to Elizabeth and her German garden. If anything, I enjoyed it even more than the earlier title. The book takes Elizabeth (and her garden), two years later, over the period of a summer, and provides an account of what she feels that she has achieved with the garden, what she would like to do to it, as well as reflections on her books and reading, which were wonderful.

Rather than write more about this book, I'm going to share with you some extracts from the book. I think von Arnim's writing and things that she writes about in this book are just wonderful.

"I must be by myself for the once for a whole summer through" I repeated, looking around at these things with a feeling of hardly being able to bear their beauty, and the beauty of the starry sky, and the beauty of the silence and the scent - "I must be alone so that I shall not miss one of these wonders, and have leisure to really live"

"What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden"

Von Arnim describes her library, and then the collections...
"What a medley of books there is! Here is Jane Austen leaning against Heine - what would she have said to that I wonder - with Miss Mitford and Cranford to keep her in countenance on the other side. Here is my Goethe, one of the many editions I have of him, the one that has made the acquaintance of the ice house and the poppies...Walter Pater, Matthew Arnold, Thoreaum Lewis Caroll....various American children's books I loved as a child and read and loved to this day; various French children's books for the same reason, whole rows of German children's books on which I was brought up...and I verily believe, every gardening book and book about gardens that has been published of late years"

The book has been published three times by Virago, with an Italicised green cover, and two more recent ones. My copy, which Virago kindly sent me, is the


  1. I need to read more Arnim, but I haven't seen any around. I think I might need to go direct to Virago. I loved The Enchanted April and remember reading it whilst on holiday. Beautiful book.

  2. I think this pair (with Elizabeth, I mean) is just lovely; I've given them as gifts to friends with new houses and new babies and they've always been warmly received (although Elizabeth does find motherhood and wifehood a bit intrusive at times too). And it's April: perfect timing for a von Arnim re-read!

  3. I've just reread The Enchanted April and fell in love with it all over again. I have The Solitary Summer along with The Pastor's Wife waiting patiently for me on the shelves.

  4. Vivienne - I definitely definitely recommend all of her books wholeheartedly - I've read nearly all of them now, what a delight!

    BIP - that is a fantastic idea for a present.

    HJ Elliot - The pastor's wife was my first and really got me into Arnim. Very different from Enchanted April though.

  5. Oh goodness I need to read more Arnim...I have SO many of her books and haven't read any apart from The Enchanted April. You've tempted me now and I think Elizabeth and her German Garden will be next on my list!

  6. A belated comment, sorry. I've read Elizabeth and Her German Garden and Solitary Summer recently and as a Mother of v. small children I really identified with EVA's need to find space and a place to connect with her 'self' again. It was almost too provoking and topical for me to read! I have also enjoyed these books for their class and feminist comments - her desire to take up a spade and dig over the garden herself, the condescending husband etc. But most of all I loved her beautiful lyrical yet humourous style. Sorry I'm so rubbish at commenting. I do follow both blogs, but have so little time to enter into the wonderful discussions.

  7. Rachel - you definitely need to read more Von Arnim - she's really really special.

    Merenia - what wonderful comments :) All of which are very true and I'm interested that you identified with EVA's need for space - I'm sure a lot of mothers would feel like that.