The Plan for “The Pastor’s Wife” {Book Club}

Remember how last week I said, “I’ll be honest, I picked The Pastor’s Wife  by Elizabeth Von Arnim because it’s free and her Enchanted April is the only novel that made the cut as I’ve moved my library around.” Well, the small joke is on us.

If you haven’t gotten the book yet here are various forms for free hereon kindle, or audio.

Guess what?

Turns out Elizabeth Von Arnim is trendy now. I bet some of the cooler members of our club knew this, but, well, I’m known for being about five years (or more!) off of the cutting edge. Alright, one article called it a “discreet resurgence“, which might be more our pace. Still, it’s been fun to poke around the internet and see how Downton Abbey is bringing about this resurgence:

“Molesley making moves on Anna last week immediately after Mr. Bates had left her confused and brokenhearted was a little sleazy — but at least he used a book as his overture. The novel Molesley gave Anna, with the distinctly unpromising title Elizabeth and Her German Garden, turns out to have been an acid-tongued 19th-century bestseller. And now it’s on the verge of finding new fans.” Source here.

 Another article said: “Oh, and for any eager Downton Abbey fans wondering why Julian Fellowes chose to single out Elizabeth and Her German Garden, I asked him and it was down to the book’s huge popularity at the turn of the century – no secret significance to the plot, I’m afraid!”

So, maybe we are cutting edge, just 115 years late.

Who is Elizabeth Von Arnim? “Elizabeth von Arnim was born Mary Annette Beauchamp in Australia in 1866, but was raised in England, the daughter of a prominent merchant.  While undergoing a tour of Italy in 1891, she met a Prussian aristocrat, Count von Arnim, who she soon married.  The couple moved into the Von Arnim estate in Pomerania, where they had five children despite the gradual deterioration of their marriage.  Count von Arnim, referred to as the ‘Man of Wrath’, in Elizabeth’s semi-autobiographical novels, went deeply into debt and was soon sent to prison for fraud.  In an effort to raise funds, Countess von Armin adopted the pen-name ‘Elizabeth’ and went to work on a brooding but satirical novel about her experiences in Pomerania.  The result, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, was published by Macmillan in 1898 and became a huge success for its wry observations on aristocratic provincial life.” You can read more here.

And a bit about The Pastor’s Wife:Ingeborg Bullivant decides spontaneously to join a tour to Lucerne-and returns engaged. Yet her new life as a rural Prussian pastor’s wife restricts her as much as her old; and when the dashing artist Ingram appears, musing about wondrous Italy, wanderlust tempts her a second time. Von Arnim’s accomplished and comic novel is based on her own first marriage and life in provincial Germany at the turn of the century.”

Themes for us to explore:

  • Cross-cultural marriage – including being a daughter-in-law
  • Being in a ministry family – whether daughter or wife
  • Loneliness in a foreign land
  • Enjoying motherhood, but also having interests outside of it
  • Keeping your mind stimulated in more challenging contexts

The book is divided into three parts. If you want to read ahead, feel free, if you don’t get to this book until later in the month, don’t worry. Jump into the conversation regardless :).

February 10 — Part 1: chapters 1-11

February 17 — Part 2:  chapters 12-20

February 24 — Part 3: chapters 22-37


Had you heard of Von Arnim before? What have you read of hers? Is Downton Abbey popular among the foreign community where you are? What shows are popular?

See you in the comments :).


Photo Source : Gratisography


  1. Amy Ludwig February 2, 2015

    I did not know Von Arnim was trendy and totally missed the reference while watching Downton Abbey. Thank you for catching me up to speed. 🙂 I saw the movie “Enchanted April” (1992 version) and adored it. I did get The Pastor’s Wife on my Kindle and started reading it. Looking forward to discussing this book, and love the themes you highlighted already!

    1. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      Amy me too! I had to read these articles several times to track it down to, I think, Season 2 🙂 — if you had asked me if Elizabeth Von Arnim was mentioned, I wouldn’t have had the foggiest. Now, if you asked me if there is a dogs behind in the opening scenes, I’ve at least got that one down!

  2. Elizabeth February 2, 2015

    I loved Downton Abbey (at least before they killed off Sybil and Matthew)! While I’ve never heard of this author or her books before, it felt strange as I started reading, because this is the very topic I’m writing and blogging on right now — the pressures ministers, and their wives and children feel. I’m excited to read and discuss!

    1. Beth Everett February 2, 2015

      I saw your post Elizabeth!  And thought of it as I started this book.

    2. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      Really the only one I knew was The Enchanted April — I had no idea she was so prolific! And please, please jump in on next week’s conversation. If you have any interest in leading it, I’d be delighted for you to :). Doesn’t always have to be me :)!

  3. VJ February 2, 2015

    I read this book over the weekend. If you are used to reading classics and literature from the time period, its a quick read. I’ll be honest though…I was terribly disappointed. It is somewhat redeeming to learn in this post that it is semi-autobiographical because I wondered why someone would invent some of the aspects of the story. I was expecting a happy and lighter book for some reason, but I found this to be very heavy. There are good themes for those in our contexts to discuss…one I might suggest adding which is I guess is connected to loneliness and keeping our minds stimulated – but where /how do we find meaningful and appropriate fellowship with people when its not readily available in our context?

    1. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      VJ, I’m with you that I was expected something lighter and happier (part of the reason i chose this was all of the review on Goodreads that called it light and happy!). Have you read The Enchanted April? I did find that one lighter and happier! And have recommended it as such. Now that I’ve done a bit more research, seems that Von Arnim has themes of marital relationships, England and Italy (and in some books Germany), and the strong pull of wanting more from life. And i love the suggestion! Don’t be surprised when you see it 🙂

  4. Beth Everett February 2, 2015

    Hadn’t heard of this author before now.  I’m looking forward to the discussion this book may bring.  I’m about 10 chapters into the book and it’s a little intense already!  Love the themes you chose Amy, since I identify with them all to some degree: I am in a cross-cultural marriage, a daughter of a minister, living in a foreign land, enjoying motherhood as well as outside interests, and trying to keep my mind stimulated with challenging things! 🙂

    1. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      Beth, this is one of the things I LOVE about reading, the ways it opens doors to share our stories (and the ways they differ from the plot of the book we’re reading). I look forward to hearing about your experience as a daughter of a minister (and sincerely hope it’s more positive than Ingeborg’s!

      1. Beth Everett February 3, 2015

        I’m sincerely thankful that it IS much more positive than Ingeborg’s!

  5. Christy J February 3, 2015

    I got this book to join the discussion this time because I’d never heard of this author before and it sounded interesting. I’m looking forward to reading it. I started it over the weekend and I’m intrigued already.

    Just a side note, it would be nice if you could announce spoiler alerts if referring to TV shows. We watch Downton Abbey here in Ghana, but are a couple of seasons behind since the internet is unpredictable so we can’t always watch things as they air. I was a bit disappointed to read in this article about the upcoming book and find out news about the show that I haven’t seen yet. Not a big deal, just a comment.

    1. T February 3, 2015

      I’d wondered if that was going to be a spoiler for anyone!!!

    2. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      Glad you’re looking forward to it Christy! And sorry about the spoiler — since it referred something that was aired the fall of 2011 and it is a minor detail and turns out to be nothing, I didn’t think it was really a spoiler but a fun fact about the book I had missed when I saw the episode. #oopsies :)!

  6. Bayta February 3, 2015

    I’d never heard of the author but thanks for helping me be slightly more trendy than I would normally be 🙂

    I love Downton and take great delight in being able to watch it when it comes out in the UK, i.e. about 4 months ahead of friends in the US 😉

    1. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      Bayta, it was funny … when i was in Beijing this fall helping my friend after surgery, she’d use her VPN to make it look like she was in the UK and watch it on British channels. The internet is a whacky world where an American in China can pretend she’s in England 🙂

  7. T February 3, 2015

    Hadn’t heard of the author and am going to stick it on my reader tonight!  And, yes, many people here were into DA.  I stopped when I heard that someone was going to undergo something very difficult that I didn’t want to see!  (Trying not to spoil anything!!)  It aired a couple of seasons on our TV dubbed into regional language as well.

    1. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      T, I was late to the DA craze — I heard of it through quite a few teams whose ladies would pick one night a week to watch it together :). Several of us tried the first few episodes but it didn’t catch on with us. Later, at a different season of life, I watched it. And that hard thing was hard 🙁

  8. Brittany February 3, 2015

    Looking forward to this book!  I’d never heard of the author, and though I love Downton, I didn’t even notice the connection, lol!  No one here in our country has ever heard of it, but we make sure and catch it online!

    1. Amy Young February 3, 2015

      I honestly had forgotten the whole thing Brittany!! If you had asked me who gave what book to whom? I’d of said, “I’m sorry what are you talking about? Who’s on first?!” Totally missed it. Funny to go back and read a small fact from a show years later and go “Oh yeah…. ” :). As always, love having you in book club!

  9. Amy February 4, 2015

    I am joining the book club for the first time this month and I am not sure how it works.  Do we just chime in via email/message on the dates listed on this post?  Thanks for your help in this.  There are a few of my friends/ teammates joining for the first time, too!  Looking forward to a good read.  Thanks again for your ministry to the rest of us!

    1. T February 4, 2015

      Amy, I think that LeaderAmy will get back to you, but in case she doesn’t see it:  yes, we read if we can, and then comment next Tuesday, I think (right, everyone?)  when Amy will post some observations and questions about the first 10 chapters.  No pressure, and post if you want, and even if you haven’t read, but have an opinion on the questions, you can post.

      1. Amy Young February 4, 2015

        Oh yes!!! Forgot to say you don’t have to have read the book to comment! Thanks T.

    2. Amy Young February 4, 2015

      Thanks T 🙂 … Amy, as she said, I’ll write a post — hopefully just to get the ball rolling and have a place to start the conversation. In the comments, we’ll talk about it, feel free to comment to this person or that person or just to say, “me too!” No pressure on being overly profound (whew!) — we’re glad you and your friends are here!

  10. Amy February 5, 2015

    Okay, I haven’t read all of the comments, so please forgive me if this is mentioned.  My three year old is hot on my trail, so I have limited time.  🙂  Regarding the dates listed, do we just chime in with our thoughts or will there be a prompt or something given on those dates for us to respond?  This is my first book club via internet and a few others from my field are joining in as well.  Thanks for the help.  Looking forward to sharing and connecting.  A definite need right now.  Thanks for your ministry.

  11. Amy February 5, 2015

    Oops!  Obviously, I should have read the previous posts.  🙂  Thanks for your explanation and help.  See you next Tuesday!

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