Conversation on The Caravaners

Book Cover: Elizabeth von Arnim, The Caravaners

Isobel Maddison and I will join Kate Macdonald at Handheld Press for an online conversation on The Caravaners on 2 February 2021. Handheld Press published an annotated edition of the novel last year.

Please join us for a chat on one of von Arnim’s funniest books. You can register for the event here.

In the meantime, Kate Macdonald has recorded a lovely introduction to the book.

One thought on “Conversation on The Caravaners

  1. A big thank you to Isobel and Juliane for a very interesting time on Tuesday! I was very glad to hear Juliane refer to The Caravaners as a travel book for this is something which strikes me about most of Elizabeth’s novels – her wonderful sense of place – and I feel that this is sometimes overlooked.
    I first encountered it – as many of us will have done – in the German Garden, with the sweep of colour and scent which the lilacs presented, and later with the wonderful sleigh ride through the snow to the shores of the Baltic. I longed to experience both!

    The next novel I read was The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen and I vowed I would go there one day. In 2002 I did, with Elizabeth as my cicerone, experiencing all those places that I had already seen through her eyes. And not only did I discover the island by walking in her footsteps, but my return journey to the mainland by boat from Hiddensee gave me added value. There was a magical ribbon of swans waiting to fly south, stretching for at least a mile, and when I arrived at Stralsund, I understood what the expression ‘jaw-dropping’ meant. I was completely unprepared for the impact that Backsteingotik was to have on me.

    I think it was Jennifer Shepherd who mentioned The Enchanted April: the wonderful contrast between wet cold London and the colour and scent of the Castello is so accurately described. The atmosphere of the Castello somehow becomes a character in the novel, working quietly in the background, rearranging the lives of the other characters.

    Kent is ‘my’ county, and so it was with a sense of ownership and a sharp eye that I set off with Jennifer Walker to follow the fictional journey of the caravaners. But Elizabeth did us proud: we discovered that not only does she describe the countryside with a very even hand, given the weather she experienced, but we could follow most of her journey on the Ordnance Survey map.

    Last summer I read – on Nick Turner’s recommendation – Father and loved the warmth and affection with which Elizabeth paints the Sussex chalk-land. At Christmas I normally read Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, set in partly in the Fens around Christmas time, when a flood forces the inhabitants of a village to take shelter in the church. But in this Covid year I felt it would be inappropriate, not to say thoroughly depressing, and so I turned to Father which not only brought back its own sunshine but reminded me of last summer’s lovely weather.

    Every Elizabeth novel I have read has left me feeling I have been somewhere which has made its impact on me. Even Mr Skeffington has a great sense of place – the descriptions of the visit to Oxford and of the area of London where Fanny lives are so evocative. In fact, flicking through the pages this morning, I realise it’s time joined Elizabeth on her Mr Skeffington journey once again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *