“Why, it would really be being unselfish to go away and be happy for a little, because we would come back so much nicer.” So says Mrs. Wilkins to Mrs. Arbuthnot in “The Enchanted April,” Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel in which four unfulfilled British women rent a Mediterranean house for a month to rejuvenate, rediscover and rekindle.

Brenda Bowen’s summer read “Enchanted August” is a frothy and fun retelling using a fictional Maine island as the backdrop for her characters to escape their New York City routines and relearn what it is to see beauty, simplicity and hope in their own lives. They do, of course, come back much nicer.

Bowen keeps most of the names and premises of “The Enchanted April” for her novel, but freshens the classic conceit of repressed women trapped in unhappy marriages with a few modern twists.

In this iteration, Caroline Dester is a movie star who embarrassed herself at the Oscars; Rose and Lottie have marriages and career goals that have fallen by the wayside in favor of raising toddlers. The disapproving spinster has morphed into a cranky elderly man mourning his late partner and cat.

The four of them rent a cottage for the month of August, where they meet locals, take beach walks, host visitors and, naturally, have a proper lobster bake.

“The story seemed to be crying out to be replayed by women (and men) who move in the modern world,” Bowen said in an interview with her publisher, Viking. She throws in enough modern anchors (references to movie stars and texting, for example) that the story fits snugly in 2015, whether or not you’ve read the original.

Most local readers will have no problem appreciating Bowen’s sketch of a magical Maine island.

Toward the end of the book, one of the cottage guests notes the change that has come over the group – at first so annoyed with each other, now a tight-knit and loyal bunch: “Between the soaring trees and the slanting light and the ashes and the birds and the ragged circle they had formed, it was hard to resist the sentiment. Sentiment or real feeling.”

All it took was easy friendship with strangers and some beach vistas to put them all right again.

However, even a small island off the coast of Maine cannot play puppeteer with people’s lives to the extent Bowen writes. In quick fixes reminiscent of Puck from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” sprinkling flower nectar in lovers’ eyes while they sleep, the lovers in “Enchanted August” fall in love – and stay in love – instantly with the people they were meant to be with. Spats between couples last a chapter at most.

Men, in particular, arrive on the island flirting with the idea of a leggy secretary at work, but upon seeing their wives ruddy-cheeked and dewy-eyed from the sea air, they instantly fall back in love.

When the owner of the cottage arrives, mooning over one married guest, it doesn’t take long before he falls in love with the unmarried guest instead. Everything falls into place perhaps too neatly, without any real struggle or heartache.

Indiscretions are wrung from the air during coral sunsets, and forgotten as the moon rises over the quaint harbor.

“Enchanted August” is a beach read to pass on to friends looking for something that isn’t terribly demanding.

While the characters are often predictable, it’s not about people so much as the place, and this author clearly has a healthy reverence for coastal Maine’s scenery and summer charm. It’s hard to argue that a small cottage on a large island would not cure most of life’s challenges – if anywhere could, it would be this fictional Little Lost Island.

Ellen O’Connell is a freelance writer who lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She can be contacted at:

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