Nan A. Talese (publisher)
Frances Frankowski was born to a poor immigrant family at the turn of the 20th century. She develops a friendship with a peer named Rosalie at a young age, and the two eventually run off together to start a new life away from their families. Enchanted Islands is interesting because it follows their friendship for decades, even though they grow apart and lead separate lives. Frances eventually marries a man named Ainslie Conway, an intelligence officer who needs a wife as part of his undercover assignment in the Galapagos Islands. It’s now WWII and tensions are high, but Frances is ready for a new adventure and hastily agrees to marry Ainslie.
The actual time in the Galapagos Islands only comprises about 1/3 of the book, but it was a nice change of pace from Frances’s city life and friendship with Rosalie. I still don’t completely understand why in the hell Ainslie would have been sent to a remote island to conduct war intelligence, but it was part of the mystery surrounding Frances’s life, because the truth is she dedicated years of her life to a mission she wasn’t really allowed to know much about. She risked her life for her country without knowing why.
I absolutely loved this book. It was a selection for Book of the Month (my new obsession) and I chose it pretty much for the gorgeous cover. Obviously the story sounded intriguing, but it is rare for me to choose a book with so few reviews and by an author I don’t know. I am so glad I chose this book though because it was a five star book for me, easily. I loved every facet and I thought the author did a good job as far as the proportions of Frances’s story. I read a few reviews that lamented the short length devoted to Frances’s time on the islands, but personally I enjoyed reading about her city life as well, so the juxtaposition of the two was perfect for me.
I also really enjoyed the love story between Ainslie and Frances and how imperfect it was. Fiction tends to provide the reader with a neat little romance, perfectly packaged, and I admired that Amend didn’t do that. I truly can’t imagine moving to a nearly deserted island with someone I barely know. Frances was brave in that regard, and perhaps a bit naïve as well.
Enchanted Islands is a phenomenal story about relationships and how humans interact, and how we hurt the ones we love even though we don’t mean to.
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