(Review) Enchanted Islands
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend
Publication Date: May 24th, 2016
Genre: Adult Fiction
My Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
Inspired by the mid-century memoirs of Frances Conway,Enchanted Islands is the dazzling story of an independent American woman whose path takes her far from her native Minnesota when she and her husband, an undercover intelligence officer, are sent to the Galápagos Islands on the brink of World War II.
Born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1882 to immigrant parents, Frances Frankowski covets the life of her best friend, Rosalie Mendel, who has everything Fanny could wish for—money, parents who value education, and an effervescent and winning personality. When, at age fifteen, Rosalie decides they should run away to Chicago, Fanny jumps at the chance to escape her unexceptional life. But within a year of living in the city, Rosalie commits an unforgiveable betrayal, provoking Frances to strike out on her own.
Decades later, the women reconnect in San Francisco and realize just how widely their lives have diverged. While Rosalie is a housewife and mother, Frances works as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence. It is there she is introduced to Ainslie Conway, an intelligence operator ten years her junior. When it's arranged for Frances and Ainslie to marry and carry out a mission on the Galápagos Islands, the couple's identities—already hidden from each other—are further buried under their new cover stories. No longer a spinster living a lonely existence, Frances is about to begin the most fascinating and intrigue-filled years of her life. Amidst active volcanoes, inhospitable flora and wildlife, and unfriendly neighbors, Ainslie and Frances carve out a life for themselves. But the secrets they harbor from their enemies, and from each other, may be their undoing.
Drawing on the rich history of the early twentieth century and set against a large, colorful canvas, Enchanted Islands boldly examines the complexity of female friendship and how those whom history has neglected to record have been shaped by, and in turn helped form, modern America.
I requested this book from NetGalley because I love reading about WWII. It's a little morbid, but historically speaking, it's one of the things I enjoy reading about. I was a little disappointed that the book didn't have too much to do with WWII, but I got over it.
This story is mainly about Frances' life, which was deeply interesting to read about considering she was a real person. From the start you feel that Frances is definitely her own type of person, but she's also a little ordinary. She's constantly being overshadowed by her best friend Rosalie and all of her siblings. That doesn't stop her from following her dreams and going to school, even when she has to lie to pretty much everyone around her.
I liked reading about Frances and Rosalie's adventures when they initially ran away from home. Frances was definitely a go-getter, but I wasn't too fond of Rosalie. I know that life was hard on her but I feel like Frances was the only person who really cared about her and all Rosalie did was hurt Frances. I was happy that Frances moved on without Rosalie when the time came.
One thing I disliked about this book was that it was so detailed that it seemed to go so slow and then before you knew it Frances was in her fifties and that story was only halfway over. I would have loved to have had some information about Frances' life in those thirty or so years.
I did love her relationship with Ainslie, as manufactured as it was. I'd like to think that he really did love her in his own way. Reading about their adventures on the islands was probably my favorite part of the book. (This is where WWII comes in.) I loved that Frances was getting to do exciting things even when she thought she was an old woman.
I really feel like this was a story of friendship and forgiveness rather than Frances' time on the islands, though. She spent a lot of her life being wounded by people, but she always seemed to forgive them, especially Rosalie and Ainslie. In the end they loved Frances deeply, they just had their own way of showing it. I appreciated the open-mindedness that Frances had about Ainslie. Dealing with that in the 1940s could not have been easy on either one of them. I was hardly surprised when Frances had her own relationship while Ainslie was at war, either.
The second half of this book was much more action packed and easier to get through. Really worth the read.
Thanks to NetGally and Doubleday Books for the ARC.