Do You Feel Alive or Dead in Your Life? {Book Club}

We’ve got new members to our book club! Welcome, welcome! If you’d like, feel free to introduce yourself in the comments (or just comment or just read and think about things, no pressure.). All that to say, we’re glad you’re here!

As I’ve said before, if you don’t like a book that’s OK. For your sake, I wish you liked everything you read, but for the sake of the book club, there is the potential for better discussions if we have a range of opinions and thoughts. The conversation doesn’t go very far when we all say, “I loved it.” “Me too.” So, if there was some part you didn’t like or had a problem with, feel free to share it.

This month we’re diving into The Pastor’s Wife  by Elizabeth Von Arnim and if you haven’t gotten the book yet here are various forms for free hereon kindle, or audio. Today we’re looking at Part 1: chapters 1-11.


When we meet Ingeborg she had just had a tooth out. “After weeks of miserable indifference she was quivering with responsiveness again, feeling the relish of life, the tang of it, the jollity of all this bustle and hurrying past of busy people.” As I relooked at this chapter for our discussion I was struck by how often the words beauty and alive were used. This is what I had loved about An Enchanted April, another of Von Arnim’s books. The longing to be alive and fully present in our lives.

I relate to this and I bet you do too. No matter where you are or your living conditions or state of your ministry, this desire to be present stirs deep. Just last week I was talking with a friend in Africa who expressed the desire not to tread water until a less lonely season comes along. I think it’s OK not to enjoy something that is unpleasant in our lives and OK to admit it and name it. I want to flesh this idea out in some later post, but a phrase I’ve coined is “feel the feeling, but you might not want to feed it.”

When I read that Ingeborg’s family had born her toothache with “perfect manners and hardly a look of reproach,” I understood why she might not feel alive or surrounded by beauty in her life.

I have a few questions for you/us:

  •  Do you feel alive in your life right now? What leads you to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?
  • If not, have you felt alive where you are? In your country or stage of life? Where could you use more beauty?

The toothache was easily solved, leaving her with time and money to explore what being alive might look like. Ingeborg’s maternal grandma was Swedish and met her future English husband when he was a tourist. “She [the grandma] had lived, up to the day when for some quite undiscoverable reason she allow herself to be married to the narrow stranger, in the middle of big beautiful things — big stretches of water, big mountains, big winds, big lonelinesses.”

A bit of foreshadowing? And family patterns?

How long did you know your husband before you got married? What are some patterns in your family. At least the last three generations of women on both sides of my family haven’t had their first child until in their 30’s. I think family patterns are interesting (except when they are bonds of sin!).

So this post won’t be a blow by blow of the book, since you’ve read it, what do you think of Robert in part one? And his comparisons of manure and church work?

“She looked at him and laughed. There was no one in Redchester, and Redchester was all she knew of life, in the least like Herr Dremmel. She stretched herself in the roomy difference, happy, free, at ease.” But then the proposal and the conflict she felt between the pull her Bishop father had and her desire to be alive. “Her whole future being decided by a cake and the eyes of seven women.” I laughed!

Have you experienced big life changes while traveling? Or in a relatively short period? How did your family respond? Any of you have a dad give a sermon that was, shall we say, rather pointedly pointed at you?

I will say the portrayal of the Bishop and his relationship with his wife and, in particular, Ingeborg, was depressing. I keep asking myself as I’m reading how much my response to things is influenced by the time I live in. How “normal” was their family in the clergy? Those of you in or raised in clergy families, how did this compare to your family? How did your mom or yourself respond to the pressures of being a pastor’s wife?

I’ve covered a lot of ground here! Feel free to jump in wherever and no pressure to answer any or all of these questions. What passages / lines stood out to you? Grab a cup and feel free to come back throughout the week and keep the conversation going.

See you in the comments! Amy

Next week Part 2: Chapters 12-12

Photo Source : Unsplash


  1. Christine February 9, 2015

    Two things caught me when I started reading this book.  One was the just the way the author uses words.  It’s sort of candid, say it like it is, but in a very refreshing and humorous way.  The second thing was that taking a trip and being spontaneous like Ingeborg is such a TCK thing to do.  It just made me laugh and feel happy for her!

    1. Amy Young February 11, 2015

      Christine, I love hearing about spontaneous trips. When I was student teaching my university was doing very well in a big basketball tournament — so two friends and I hoped in the car after work on a Friday and drove 17 hours to see if we could buy tickets to the next game :).

      What spontaneous trips have you (or others) taken?

  2. Kim A.. February 9, 2015

    I enjoyed the first chapters, however they were slightly depressing.  When my husband was a pastor there was a sort of suffication that comes from myself and the congregation based on expectation and behaviour.  I couldn’t fight it and I found the author wrote of this oppression so well…almost too well!!  I have recently read a book on co-dependency which explained to me so many things about my own personal expecations and how this affects the way I relate to others in a life and ministry setting.  I could point out sooo many different co-dependent behaviours in these chapters that made me laugh, made me sad and made me thankful for grace and revelation and freedom!!

    1. Amy Young February 11, 2015

      Kim, this is what I love about book clubs 🙂 … the different parts that stand out! Yes, i can see how Ingeborg (in particular) was co-dependant with her dad. I’ve heard a simple definition of co-dependant is “I feel responsilbe FOR you” — where God wants us to be “responsible TO someone.” We are wired for community and healthy relationships … while Ingeborg did more and more FOR her dad and to please him, her mom did less and less as she lay on the couch. I wonder what the sister was really like 🙂

  3. Dorette February 9, 2015

    Hi, I’m new here and I’m really enjoying the book so far.. I met my husband in a city in SA while working as a locum for someone on maternity leave – the day after I signed a contract to work in Namibia.. Four months later we said ‘I do’ and drove off in a car with all our belongings to start a new life together in the desert. To make a long story short.. three years and three countries later I recently gave birth here in Thailand where we stay now and learning to be alive in the moment wherever you are has really been one of life’s greatest lessons..There is also a lot of freedom in doing things different.. it’s only difficult the first time but later people do not even lift an eyebrow if you decide to do something radical like moving halfway across the world.. or giving birth in a rural hospital in Asia 🙂

    1. Amy Young February 11, 2015

      Dorette so glad you have you chime in and hear a bit about your story. As the rest of the book unfolds (don’t want to say too much) it will be interesting to hear your thoughts on Ingeborg and her journey! How old is your baby? Congrats on the birth!

  4. Elizabeth February 10, 2015

    First of all, this author, WHAT a way she has with words. Her sentence structure is so complex, and I love the way she doesn’t come right out and tell you things, you sort of figure things out for yourself. Although it has taken time and brains to decode some of her sentences — I can’t read this when I’m tired or only half-engaged.

    My first impression of Dremmel was that he was completely in his head, devoid of caring. He’s interested in Ingeborg though, and no one has ever been the slightest bit interested in her thoughts — so much so that she never thought she HAD any thoughts. Of course there’s his disdain for his profession; all he ever thinks about is manure. Now he did crack me up when he talked about the problem of Sundays. There’s probably not a pastor alive who doesn’t in some way relate to this. Sundays are so exhausting! But the way he is described as falling in love with her, it’s just heartless. He decides to fall in love, and then convinces himself he is madly in love, but the feelings just.aren’t.there. He doesn’t even listen to her with both ears, one side of his head always inclined to those animal feces.

    Overall, my first impression is that there is spiritual abuse all over this novel, and it made me sad/annoyed/upset. The sad thing was that although Ingeborg knows she’s unhappy, she doesn’t know why or realize what a detrimental religious culture and family she’s in. (Which is again the author’s genius in describing it from her point of view, yet not with self-awareness.)

    And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and talk about spiritual abuse, specifically in the homeschooling culture. Yes, I homeschool, so I am not sitting here judging something of which I am not a part. But my husband was in a particularly legalistic homeschool movement as a child and teenager, so we have some personal experience with this. Only now are some of these super-conservative fundamentalist groups being revealed as such. The descriptions of Ingeborg’s life remind me eerily of that culture. Things like “her severe training in sunniness” and “training in acquiescence and distrust of herself” and that she “so much loved to please” could have been lifted from the life of a child in one of these homeschool groups (or fundamentalist Christian churches).

    Later she has difficulty thinking through things on her own. She is extremely efficient and skilled at being her father’s personal secretary (ick! something else that happens in some homeschool & home business families) but she has never had opportunity to think for herself (or stand up for herself). This kind of non-thinking approach to life makes people very susceptible to further abuse. Her parents are clearly unhealthy, her mother having escaped to her couch and her “illness” so she could take a little charge of her life and avoid the overbearing Bishop. And the way both parents using the children for their own gain, ugg.

    And don’t even get me started on the Bishop’s horrific theology!! He is such a cruel, proud, self-absorbed man who knows nothing of his own sin. And the theology that he has set up supports him completely in his arrogant view of himself and his abuse of his family. The way Ingeborg describes her petitions as always being “refused with bits of Bible, which was so peculiarly silencing” is very telling. Sometimes we do that to each other, we silence each other with the Bible. Often it’s done in sincerity, but other times it’s done by those in authority with that exact purpose: to silence. And the way the Bishop then necessarily blames his wife for his daughter’s troubles — eek! — no responsibility for himself, always blame-shifting, even blaming his anger on his daughter, not on himself. “But anyhow women ought not to have the vote.” He sounds just like a cult leader, and he really creeps me out.

    So I would ordinarily think it’s wonderful that she’s going to escape her wretched upbringing, but alas, we take ourselves with us wherever we go, and she has been shaped by abusive spirituality, and so its effects will remain with her, at least for a time. And she is marrying a quite heartless man, not expecting that later on, that WILL affect her (I haven’t read ahead, I am just assuming, because all of us want intimacy and community and connectivity, and I think she is going to find herself very lonely quite soon — though perhaps it will still be better than her father?? Don’t know yet.)

    So yes, I agree with the person last week who said it’s depressing. It’s great for picking apart and dissecting, but the spirituality is depressingly unhealthy. I do like Ingeborg, though, so I hope some good things happen to her. (But I didn’t care a whit for her family!) And I only liked Dremmel at first, because he was quite funny, before he had convinced himself he was in love with her and assures her that she will be in love later and that all she will care about will be her children (I love Ingeborg’s suspicion on that account!).

    (I told you I had a lot to say!)

    1. Brittany February 11, 2015

      Haha, I’m glad you are enjoying her style of writing because WOW I’m not!  Maybe it’s because I’m interrupted multiple times when reading the same sentence (“Mommy, Mommy, MOMMY!) and I spent 20 minutes just trying to figure out what she’s saying on one page!  Lol.

      I agree that it’s hard to read so much “spiritual abuse”.  My heart breaks for Ingeborg’s family because if they would just be governed by Scripture and the God of the Bible (not the one of their own design), things would be so different for ALL of them!  And then for Dremmel and his congregation, how sad for his responsibility to shepherd the flock to be such an unwelcome burden and handled with such callousness!

      I do think it’s interesting you don’t like Dremmel.  I’m not sure I do or don’t yet, but I certainly think that he’s better for her than her father, and I do hope they come to love each other.  They at least like each other and other than being a bit overbearing (oh my goodness, it drove me crazy how much he would interrupt Ingeborg and not let her talk!), they do have fun and they are friends.  Ingeborg does like him and admire him which I feel like speaks to his character a bit.  But I have no idea what the rest of the book holds so I could be completely wrong in discerning his character!

    2. Amy Young February 11, 2015

      LOVE it that you have a lot to say :)! On the writing style — Okay, I’ve typed and erased several times — what I want to say is there is a feeling it’s from a different era (and why I think it’s good to have variety in our reading diet). Von Arnim is able to convey complexities in what seems a simple writing style. (Unless one is interrupted by “Mommy, mommy!” Brittany. Sorry! And bless you for perservering!)

      I like the insight on Ingeborg being unaware and as the story is told from her point of view, there are times I want to warn her or scream becasue we have the vantage point of knowing more.

      As to “spiritual abuse” — YES. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, and now maybe I’ll say something out on a limb. One of the things that has driven me bonkers working in our line of work is the way (it tends to be) unhealthy people use the God card to justify/give a pass to their unhealth. It’s very hard to combat “Well God told me” — which is why it’s used! Except I have a new way 🙂 … I was reading in Job in January and it struck me that everyone one of Job’s friends began their advice and observations with thinking they were speaking God’s blessing or on his behalf. By the end of the book, we know that’s not the case.

      Where have you (any of you!) seen other aspects of spritual abuse on the field? 

      Elizabeth, I hope part two stirs as much in you and others 🙂

      1. Elizabeth February 13, 2015

        I agree, Brittany, Dremmel is better than her father! I just have this fear that something in his brain flipped a switch when he decided to marry her, and that he doesn’t respect her anymore, since he’s put her in this little brainless, one-dimensional “wife” box. The thing that attracted him was her mind, not her face (YAY!! on that point) so it doesn’t make much sense why he would shift, unless it’s cultural conditioning for what a wife is like, I guess.

        And I also agree that some sentences took me at least 3 read-throughs to understand!

        And to answer your question, Amy, before we go any further I should probably say that I don’t think this story can be generalized. When I talk about spiritual abuse in this book, I’m specifically talking about this book! I don’t mean to be saying I think all pastor’s families are like this; this is a particular story (that someone said was semi-autobiographical??) with particular details. I don’t mean to imply all ministry families are this abusive! Just that this portrayal of Ingeborg’s family creeps me out with its unhealthiness.

        Ok, that said, I agree with you, Amy, that people sometimes use the “God card” to do whatever they want. We all want to feel assurance that we are doing God’s will, and since God is invisible and (mostly) physically mute, it’s hard to be absolutely sure we are. So we tell ourselves we ARE sure and then we tell other people that. Sometimes it gets abusive, but I don’t think it’s always meant that way — more it’s borne out of fear, or a desperate desire to hear directly from God, or a desperate desire to “prove” we are spiritual enough (possibly arising from being within unhealthy groups where you have to prove such things — but that’s a spiritual abuse tangent for another day!).

        However, I do think it’s sometimes meant to control people. Just this past Sunday, the sermon was on listening to God and hearing Him, and the preacher said several times over, that the precious gift of hearing from God should NEVER be used to control others. (He’s very charismatic/pentecostal, but even he had never in his 70 years heard an audible voice — not saying it doesn’t happen, just that it’s not common.) He said he thinks this is the reason so many people are afraid of talking to God and attempting to listen back through prayer and the Bible, because they’ve seen this abusive nature of “God told me.”

        So for me, I remembered anew that when I hear from God, I don’t always have to push it on other people. It’s for me and my faith, for assurance I’m talking to Him and listening to Him, communing with Him and knowing Him and following Him to the best of my ability in my life. I don’t have to try to use my communication with the Living God to walk all over His beloved people.

        I’m going to link to an article my husband wrote (under a pen name) on a website specifically for people coming out of the homeschool system he was a part of in the 80’s and 90’s. It may not mean that much to you, or ring a bell with any spiritually abusive people you’ve known. He was in a small religious sub culture with very specific rules about behavior, and these tools of spiritual manipulators were at first very subtle. It may not apply to your life. I am, however, curious if you recognize any of these approaches to controlling people.

        1. Pam G February 13, 2015

          Elizabeth, thank you for sharing so openly about the realities…and impact…of spiritual abuse.  Thank you also for the link to you hubby’s article.  Very insightful.  This is a topic that i’ve been exploring off and on for the last couple of years from various angles.  I am so intrigued…b/c … i must confess…it happened to me, too.  Like Ingeborg, I became a quiet little mouse.  It wasnt somethg I did intentionally, and it wasnt really somethg other people did to me.  I just slowly gave up my voice, a little bit at a time, until I could no longer trust my own thots and feelings.  I was in a very reputable and trusted org for DECADES and I left feeling like a cult survivor.  What happened?!?  Somewhere along the way we ALL got lost and I finally reconciled to the reality of the unhealthiness in which I was immersed.

          In your husband’s article he gives four signals of trouble.  All were in place for my situation…all are in place for Ingeborg…A good litmus test for us all.

          Btw-Everyone around her (including Dremmel! and her own self-talk) strive to keep her small…I just want to scream into her ear, “wake up!”  Pay attention to what your heart is telling you…you are meant to sing”

          Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom….and grace.

          1. Elizabeth February 15, 2015

            Amen!! Freedom and grace! May we be people so in tune with the Spirit of the Lord that we spread freedom and grace wherever we go.

            I pray you’ve found your voice again and that you no longer feel as raw as you did when you first left.

        2. Amy Young February 16, 2015

          Agreed that spiritual abuse needs to be imbedded in context — but what I love about a story like this, is that we come at a topic from such a different / unexpected angle, that it creates a door to see if it might be in our lives. As you’ve pointed out, the fall outs can be awful. I’ve had to deal with it a few times in team situations on the field — God can bring healing and redemption (as he has for your husband), but there is still a fairly significant price for all involved. Sigh.

        3. Amy Young February 16, 2015

          Meant to also say … thanks for sharing the link to your husband’s article. Such sound insight!

    3. Phyllis February 15, 2015

      I’m guessing that our husbands were in the same “particularly legalistic homeschool movement.” Interesting. The very same phrases in this book jumped out to me as being like that movement. I have enjoyed your writing and your husband’s before; now I feel even more of a connection.


      Oh, and about this book: I’m also loving the author’s way with words.

      1. Elizabeth February 15, 2015

        Thank you for sharing that, Phyllis. 🙂 I’m glad to connect on here, too, and I hope that my husband’s words are healing words for you and your husband. Blessings.

        1. Phyllis February 15, 2015

          After my first comment, I read down a bit further, found your link, and realized that it was definitely the same homeschool org. Small world.

  5. T February 10, 2015

    Hmmm.  Some things that I’m thinking about after reading the book and Amy’s questions and the comments are:  Ingeborg had really low expectations for a husband–if I’d come into marriage with such low expectations, then I’d be in bliss now!  Sometimes I feel that way when dealing with my non-believing neighbors…the women really just want a guy that will provide money for food and stuff, won’t beat them, and will be kind of pleasant, and get them pregnant.  I came into marriage wanting happily ever after.  Who is disappointed at times?  Me!

    Also, I give the German guy a break…I was a science major, and am rather logical, so I understand he wasn’t euphoric with love.  He did comment to himself that he was so surprised that he was falling in love.  He was surprised by how much he was thinking of her, and how he really wanted to marry her.  I do get sick of the idea that he knows everything and Ingeborg knows nothing and has to be tutored into life.  But, she has been very sheltered.

    On that topic (being sheltered and new to relationships), my parents were often worried about me because I didn’t date (not even at my Christian college).  It just didn’t work out, and I only wanted to date someone who was ready to move overseas…my husband is the first guy I dated and kissed, which is great, but, I think my parents had a point when they said that “dating can be good, and doesn’t have to be such a big deal” in that you learn how personalities work together, what you are really looking for in a relationship, and what you aren’t, how you react to conflict, etc., etc.  I’m sure many could disagree w/this, and I don’t want my kids to be dating non-believers ever, but I hope that they at least have good friends of the other gender…if Ingeborg had had any relational experience before, she wouldn’t have winked away his not listening to her completely and wanting to be alone in the lab all day.

    I like the book, and am happy we’re reading it!  We had a sub-par lunch and an iffy supper because I wanted to keep reading!  That makes me smile, because I remember occasionally having bologna or peanut butter sandwiches because my mom was engrossed in a book.  Those the generational sins you were talking about, Amy?  😉


    1. Amy Young February 11, 2015

      My week is complete :)!! Not one, but two sub-par/iffy meals. I smiled and then about floated. Now, to turn all Victorian Gushy, this is what I’d hoped for when we were dreaming up Velvet Ashes and the book club. Not for sub par meals, or children pestering (Brit!), HA! Actually, I’m not that creative — I just knew that when I read a book, I wanted to talk about it! And I was usually the one pestering others to read :). Don’t know if I can blame that on generational sin … probaly just my own annoying personaltiy with ventures into sin 🙂

      Still, iffy meals. I’m happy :).

      (And FOUR smiley faces? For real? Amy, good grief, this is why people run when they see you coming!)

      On the German guy — I feel sorry that he’s (in part) stuck in a job he hates (pastoring). I can’t remember now if he was the “lucky” one in his family who was to “be the pastor” or how that came about. I’m thankful that we live in era that, for the most part, doesn’t have the same type of pressure for a family to have one child who will do/be THIS and another who will be or do THAT.

      It was also a bit of a conundrum to me how much he enjoyed sparring/talking with Ingeborg but did seem to be “I know everything, you know nothing my poor little lamb!”

  6. Beth Everett February 11, 2015

    Ingeborg’s family situation was definitely, as you said Amy, “depressing”.  I am thankful that my own experience as a PK was nothing like Ingeborg’s.  Overall I would say that my experience was mostly good.  Expectations of self, parents and the congregation all play a part in shaping what the PK experience is like. For me the pressure I placed on myself, and the even greater pressure I felt from the congregation (real and perceived) had the greatest influence on me.

    Kim mentioned the word “suffocating” in her comment, and I’ve on occasion used the word suffocating as well to describe some of my experience.  Barnabas Piper mentioned it in his book “The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity”.  He writes: “PKs are like everyone else in that we want to be known; we want people to know our hearts and our fears and what make us us.  But this sort of scrutiny creates a horde of people who know volumes about us.  It creates a tension in which it can be difficult to genuinely make ourselves known, and so PKs become both the best-known and the least-known people in the church.  In most cases there isn’t a single person or a particular group of people doing the watching.  It’s a collective, disorganized, largely unintentional effort on the part of the church as a whole.  At best it is bothersome; at worst it is suffocating and warping.” (chap 2)

    My own journey/story has taken me away geographically from my father’s congregation and from the immediate pressure and expectations of being a PK.  For the past 20+ years while I have lived overseas, I have found a freedom to be myself and to be known just for being me.  It truly is life-giving!

    1. Amy Young February 11, 2015

      Beth, thanks for the insights from your life! It’s funny, for the most part, I don’t think I had strong ideas one way or the other on the kids of the pastor’s families I’ve known (Here I’m trying to slow down and examine myself and how I may be adding to the burden.). I will say there was one pastor I had opininos on his parenting 🙂 .. the P had been raised in Japan by M parents and his dad was VERY over bearing. So, when this dear man grew up and became a father, he swung to the other extreme and couldn’t bear to really step into any sort of disciplinary role. But I think we all understood he was trying not to pass on what had been passed to him. I truly love him and he and his family have been life long friends with us. OK, that was a bit of a tangent. 

      Raising TCKs and having been a PK, how do you think the general expectations of the two groups differ?

  7. Brittany February 11, 2015

    In answer to your question, I have struggled to feel alive where I am right now.  First of all, the backdrop is hard.  Dirty, gloomy, crowded/noisy city, ugly apartments crowding everything, and an oppressive spirit covering over this city in a way that I couldn’t believe until moving here.  I am NOT a city girl.  Or an apartment girl.  And people in the city are not very friendly.  So it’s very easy to feel claustrophobic, oppressed, and dying(?) here.  I cannot wait to finish up language school so that we can move to a house in the country, in a village where we’ll be working.  The people are warm and friendly.  We’ll have a yard.  There is truly a sense of community there.

    I can relate a bit to Ingeborg.  She was in a stuffy place where she had no real (healthy) relationships, confined to the expectations of her father, oppressed by the standard to which she could never measure up.  Of course she wanted to be free, to rebel a little bit and explore…something she’d never had the opportunity to do before!  She will have freedom in Germany.  She will be with a man, who maybe doesn’t love her as he should, but he certainly likes her, and she him.  I am hopeful that Ingeborg will have the opportunity to live fully alive and not just for a week on vacation.

    1. Amy Young February 11, 2015

      Brittany, I love the ways you can see you’re like Ingeborg — and i can see it! I forget, how much longer is language school? 

  8. Rachel February 13, 2015

    I totally relate to how Ingeborg is such a people pleaser and how she struggles to say no to others (even in huge decisions like marriage)! Wow can that get you into hot water…sobering reminder for myself, a recovering people pleaser! Overall I’m enjoying the writing style – it definitely has that Victorian charm…and I hope Ingeborg and Dremmel grow in their love for each other so that they can look back and laugh at their early chapters!

    1. Amy Young February 16, 2015

      Love the phrase “Victorian charm” 🙂

  9. Christy J February 15, 2015

    So far I am loving this book. Yes, the content is hard to read sometimes, but I love that it provides a wonderful blend of tragedy and comedy, much like real life. I have become completely enthralled with the characters, even though sometimes I want to shake some sense into them! And the writing is wonderful. I love the use of language–so different from a lot of the stuff I have been reading lately.

    I’ve been interested in the comments above about spiritual abuse in this story, and have found myself wondering how many people feel this, yet don’t know how to express that feeling. I often think about how to teach what I believe without making my students feel compelled to conform in order to please me, their families, or others. I pray frequently that my students who have been raised in a very sheltered spiritual environment will find freedom within God’s grace on their own rather than by being shoved through the door. Thankfully, I have not personally encountered anything like Ingeborg’s family situation.

    This book has also reminded me of how grateful I am to have been born in the place and time that I was, when women do not have to rely on the support of men in order to survive in the world. I am saddened to think about women, like Ingeborg, who have gotten married as a way to escape a terrible home situation. I know that this still happens to many women today, in spite of how much things have changed. I am blessed to have so many choices in life.

    I am looking forward to the rest of the book. I hope Ingeborg finds joy in her new life.

    1. Amy Young February 16, 2015

      Christy, the writing style stood out to me too! I tend to read so many “modern books” (aka, published in the last ten years) and find this style a nice peek back into history. And AMEN on how blessed I feel as a woman to live in this era with different choices and options. You sound like a good teacher 🙂 and I wish I could pop into your classroom!

  10. Lisa Z February 15, 2015

    As I was reading the first few chapters of this book, I happened across this quote by Oscar Wilde in a magazine, “Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary”. My mind immediately went to Ingeborg and her train ride with Dremmel and I thought, “Run, Ingeborg, run!”.  But, run where?  As we learned more about her family and her father’s oppressive personality, I felt a bit hopeless for her and the options she seems to have.  I agree with comments above that certainly many Western cultures today provide women with far more opportunities for life and love.  And, how American culture places such a high value on romanticized love as a feeling.

    Given that this story my bear some reflection to the author’s life, I was also curious about the comment by another male tourist on Dent’s tour who commented that Ingeborg was pretty.  It was a brief observation, but why throw that in?

    Oh, and the garden scene that happened during Judith’s engagement party had me rolling on the floor….so much chaos and confusion and the Bishop and Dremmel tripping all over each other.  I thought it was so well done!

    1. Amy Young February 16, 2015

      Lisa, I agree that some of the scenes are pure comedy (comedic tragedy?). There’s another one in the next section involving beds that has me chuckling again as I recall it! I haven’t read “The German Garden” (which i think is her most autobiographical) but am seeing definite themes with this, what I’ve heard about The German Garden and An Enchanted April — and it sounds like Ms Von Arnim longed to be happy, felt trapped, and X (don’t want to say) was her happy place. Can’t wait for the discussion to go on!

  11. Kay Bruner February 20, 2015

    I am SO late to the party, but OH MY GOSH!  I can’t remember when I’ve laughed out loud so much at a book.  I keep saying, E von A is Jane Austen on CRACK!  And this book is like the confluence of my TCK childhood, my nerdy English major past, and my therapist present.  I’m having the time of my life diagnosing everybody–while scribbling down things like “he had a caressing way with a pat of butter.”  (Amy Young.  YOU ROCK.)

    1. Pam G February 21, 2015

      Yes, E von A has me in stitches.  I devoured “The Pastor’s Wife”…then indulged in back-to-back all nighter with the delightful “Enchanted April” (even funnier!).  Now I’m  hanging out in Elizabeth’s German Garden.  Pure delight.  What an incredible find…and of course, MY nerdy self is enthralled with the feminist themes that are woven throughout.  Fascinating.  So much to talk about.

  12. Bayta February 22, 2015

    I am so behind – both with reading and with commenting – but am loving the book! How come I’d never heard of Elizabeth von Arnim before?! Really enjoying her writing style.  She often makes me love out loud (thankfully I have mostly been reading at home rather than on public transport 🙂 ) but then the deeper topics stay with me.

    I’ve been intrigued by the extremes in in Ingeborg’s character.  I know, “extreme” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when thinking about her.  And yet, she goes from someone whose main concern is pleasing others (“it had seemed all her life the most beautiful of pleasures to give people what they wanted”), who is very self-effacing and stuck in a routine, to someone who takes a “spur of the moment” decision that she knows flies in the face of everything her family would approve of.  And while her marriage in some ways continues that rebellion, in other ways it reverts to her previous pattern.  She seems to agree to the marriage largely because she wants to please Dremmel and because the group’s expectations seem to make her incapable of taking her own decision.

    It makes me so angry when people use God and the Bible almost like a weapon, the way Ingeborg’s father does (“to lie to a bishope raised the operation from just a private sin which God would deal with kindly on being asked, to a crime you were punished for”, “every time she had asked leave of her father to do anything, it has been refused; and refused with bits of Bible”). At the same time, I was thinking what we might be saying had von Arnim written a book about the Bishop, rather than about Ingeborg.  If we knew more about him, and the environment and relationships that shaped him, maybe we would see him very differently? Who knows.  To me it was a good reminder, though, to remember that each person I encounter has their own story, and mostly I know nothing of that. Oh how much wisdom it requires to be full of empathy, while not letting that excuse sin and abuse!


  13. Esteci February 22, 2015

    Robert is an INTJ in an ENFJ profession!  He’s off the charts on “I” and “T.”   While his culture and his genes have shaped him thus far, I hoped that Ingeborg’s zest would enliven him and expand his world. Instead, he goes from seeing her as a person to seeing her as a role. Interestingly, though, he has very low expectations of her on the homefront and he doesn’t expect her to fulfill the typical duties of a pastor’s wife.  Instead, they have an amiable co-existence, with benefits. As long as she doesn’t distract him from his scientific work and as long as she makes herself available to produce babies, he is satisfied. Robert sees marriage in the same utilitarian way that he sees the rest of his life. He’s not malevolent, but his tunnel vision keeps him from seeing Ingeborg for the treasure that she is. How I wish that Robert’s character would develop, but he remains immutable!

    While I’m not fond of Robert, I am fond of this book on many levels. Thanks, Amy for your insightful questions. There are so many great themes to mine here.

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