It began in a women's club in London on a February afternoon. A discreet advertisement in The Times, addressed to "Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine..." lures four very different women away from the dismal British weather to San Salvatore, a castle high above a bay on the sunny Italian Riviera. There, the Mediterranean spirit stirs the souls of Mrs Arbuthnot, Mrs Wilkins, Lady Caroline Dester, and Mrs Fisher, and remarkable changes occur.
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Oh, Gosh! What a Delightful Surprise!
I purchased this audiobook because it came cheap. I had low expectations. So imagine my surprise when I found fleshed-out characters, a not so easy journey for them, and twists in the plot. Even though I absolutely knew how it'd turn out in the end, it was so good (and so well narrated) I zipped through, chapter after chapter. And I look forward to doing that again someday because really: what a delight!
All the characters have complicated natures, complicated desires, and unexpected challenges to growth. Mrs. Wilkins, Lottie, however, is a natural favorite as she's the catalyst for change, the one who leaves her subservient self behind, and looks to the future with hope while enjoying every second of the present.
This book really makes you look at the beauty around you, and it inspires you to fling off your shackles with joy. I particularly was impressed by how many little obstacles were thrown in the way of the characters. What should have been a predictable journey to growth was instead written with challenges for them. This had me biting my nails now and again.
I found nothing wrong with Eleanor Bron's performance but was instead really quite taken with it. There are different versions of this book, but I suggest this version as Bron has a knack for delivering the different tones of the characters' natures, their emotions. She doesn't make the annoying mistake of trying to warp her voice into different characters but uses subtle variations to distinguish them. She really captures their longings, their fears, their hopes.
Make no mistake, this is light reading/listening. If you're looking for deep plot dynamics, save this for later. But by all means, come back later if you'd like some refreshment. It's a little gem that I had no idea was out there.
A perfect read for any season
- S. Harris