Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (Arnim)

Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther is an absolute delight of a novel. Told in a series of letters from Rose-Marie Schmidt to Mr Anstruther it follows both Rose-Marie's life and their relationship. The dashing young Englishman, Mr Anstruther had come into Rose-Marie's life just before the correspondence started; he had lodged with her and her father for a year, and the pair had fallen in love. Before he returned to England, the pair had become engaged, although it had not been formally announced. But the relationship does not progress smoothly, and Mr Anstruther is forced to break off the engagement after his father is keen for him to marry another, more eligible spinster (one of the sub-plots of the letters is the Schmidt's impoverishment and their attempts to make do on a very small income, which includes adventures into vegetarianism (unsuccessful, leaving Rose-Marie and her father extremely hungry!) and other attempts to economise, all related in a very amusing fashion). But the story does not end there. That engagement also ends, and we find that Mr Anstruther and Rose-Marie still have feelings for each other. But will it work out? The end is surprisingly ambiguous. The storyline is well paced, and the wit and humour of the letters are just wonderful.

This title has been published just once, in the original green edition.

Sadly, I've only got one more VMC Elizabeth Von Arnim to read, her autobiography, All the dogs of my life. But the good news is that she has written a number of other books which Virago haven't yet published. I recently read Princess Priscilla's Fortnight which was absolutely hilarious and I'm looking forward to discovering more of her books. Hurrah for Virago introducing me to a truly wonderful author - I think she really is one of the discoveries of this reading project.


  1. Yet another stunning cover from the VMC gang!

  2. I really enjoyed this one, too, although I'm not sure I'd call it my favourite. Her book about her dogs was unexpectedly charming as well, so it's nice you have that to look forward to.

    I didn't feel that the end was ambiguous: I thought there was a pretty solid trend in the later letters. I also had the feeling that Mr. Anstruther was more than happy to appear as though he was being pushed into another relationship but was actually relieved at having an excuse for his commitment-phobia. (Just as well, I think Fraulein Schmidt deserved a more devoted, settled companion.)

  3. I loved The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Armin, so I will definitely add this one to my list.

  4. My very favorite Virago, in fact may have been the one that got me reading them! I agree with the above though, I don't find the ending ambiguous. She seems very clear to me.