In the Mountains by Elizabeth von Arnim: Review


In this fictionalized journal, a young British woman returns to her house in the Swiss Alps after five years away, and a world war, to recharge. Besides her home’s Swiss caretaker and his wife, she is completely alone with her thoughts, until the arrival of two older British women. The narrator feels that it is her duty to offer her compatriots a roof over their heads for as long as the pair stays in Switzerland. It turns out to be longer than she expected.

The narrator’s family (she doesn’t give names) left their house shortly after the start of World War I expecting to be ”Back for Christmas!” She suffered loss, including the death of loved ones, though she never goes into detail. For the first few chapters she wanders around looking at flowers, mountains, and grieving. It never gets too angsty or maudlin. She is an Englishwoman after all. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!

Just as she’s getting a bit bored, two ladies appear on the scene. They too are looking to recover from the war. The narrator throws herself into making them comfortable. Mrs Barnes (Kitty) and Mrs Jewks (Dolly) are widows 50 and 40 respectively. Our hostess wants them all to be bosom pals but Mrs Barnes steers all conversation away from anything unpleasant…including Germans. Dolly might be open to confidences but her sister never lets her out of sight. Dolly has a twinkle in her eye, and a girlish nature, which Kitty tries to damp down. It’s not proper in her mind.

Meanwhile, the hostess is feeling oppressed. All this polite conversation and stifling routine is making her nuts.

Mrs Barnes and I are always doing things we don’t want to do because we suppose it is what is going to make the other one happy. The tyranny of unselfishness! I can hardly breathe.

She looks forward to paying her bills because it gets her away from Mrs Barnes.

Then *EXCITEMENT* a Man arrives. Her 60 year old uncle- a bishop. And I thought, “Oh good! Maybe he’ll marry Mrs Barnes and release us all from her tyranny.” But that’s not what happens.


So, yeah, disappointing ending and I have a list a mile long why IT SHOULD NEVER HAD ENDED LIKE THAT. But I’m not Elizabeth von Arnim and feminism didn’t happen yet, so what do I know?! Up until that point, I really enjoyed In the Mountains. It’s funny and sweet. I loved What’s Her Name and the Antoines (the Swiss Help). Dolly was great. I would have put Mrs Barnes in a very polite well. With the uncle.

You can read In the Mountains by Elizabeth von Arnim for free!


  1. Elizabeth Von Arnim's the best! Have you read Vera?

    1. Not yet! But I was looking at it. It's on my list.


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