Enchanted Islands

Enchanted Islands

A Novel

Book - 2016
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Inspired by the midcentury memoirs of Frances Conway, this is the 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 to investigate the Germans living there in the buildup to World War II. They carve out a life for themselves amid active volcanoes, forbidding wildlife and flora and unfriendly neighbors. But the secrets they harbor -- from their friends, from their enemies, and even each other -- may be their undoing.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC,, 2016
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780804172042
Characteristics: 306 pages ; 21 cm


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Apr 06, 2018

I enjoyed the characters, relationships and time period.

Jun 26, 2017

I found this book to be a satisfying read. It's loosely based on the real life of Frances Conway from teenager to old age. It has a slow, detached style which is similar to Frances' personality. More of no-nonsense look into her life. The last half of the book is set in the Galápagos Islands. I enjoyed the primitive landscape and outdoor adventure of this part of the book the most.

Apr 09, 2017

The characters were simply not believable. And the actions they took in their lives were not believable. It was as if the author said "how many different 'outcasts' can I have represented among these 3 primary characters" and made that her main premise.

The writing was fine enough, stylistically. But the plot was just utterly trite. And the interior life of a woman's mind was rather limited (love! friendship! rejection!) And I write that as a woman.

If you want a well-written autobiographical account of life on the Galapagos at this time, try Margret Wittmer's Floreana (which largely gave this author all the details for this book). Wittmer is a surprisingly good writer, and, again, it's autobiographical. And there's enough excitement in her life to make the read compelling.

ehbooklover Aug 13, 2016

I decided to read this one for two reasons: 1) the gorgeous cover and 2) the fact that it takes place in the Galapagos Islands. While the setting was evocative and beautiful at times, the book's focus was really female friendship, with the setting serving solely as backdrop. And in the end these characters were actually what kept me reading this wonderful book.

Jul 12, 2016

Predictable. Good writing, but I didn't care about any of the characters and I didn't learn anything. Boring.

Apr 09, 2016

A good read - engaging characters and a great narrative voice, plus an interesting topic. Amend works a bit off the memoirs written by Frances Conway to imagine the life that she and her husband Ainslie would have led on the Galapagos Islands before and during World War II, and then also really vividly imagines the path that would have led Frances to that moment, including a well realized female friendship. Well done.


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Feb 19, 2017

Spoiler alert -- I wrote this so I'll be able to remember what the book is about months from now.
Frances and her one friend Rosalie are refugees, Frances poor and Rosalie seemingly well-off. It turns out that Rosalie "helps out" with the rent by sleeping with the landlord. The two women run away together. They love each other like sisters, but Rosalie sleeps with Frances's crush and so Frances runs away, again, to another city. Eventually, she meets Ainslie and falls sort of in love with him. He becomes a spy and he marries Frances as part of his cover. They set up housekeeping on a mostly-deserted island. A German couple are there as well, and they spy on each other. Meanwhile, Frances discovers Ainslie is gay, but they love each other anyway -- just not "that" way. Their post ends, they return to the US, and Frances serendipitously runs into Rosalie, whom she has missed terribly. They become friends again, but Rosalie is rich now and they do not have much in common and run in different circles. Ainslie's homosexuality gets found out by the Navy and they send him back to the island as a way of kindly getting rid of him, then discharge him. Eventually he dies and Rosalie's husband dies, then Rosalie and Frances move together into an old-folks home.

Supposedly, this story was based partly on a true story. I found the "marriage as cover" part a bit hard to buy, and it never was really explained or acknowledged as weird. The writing was an awkward mix of vintage (in keeping with the time period of the 1920's-40's) and modern. It was an easy read and I didn't have trouble finishing it, but I wouldn't recommend it.

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