Enchanted Islands: Book summary and reviews of Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend

Enchanted Islands

by Allison Amend

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend X
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend
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  • Published in USA  May 2016
    320 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

Inspired by the midcentury 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 at 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, Rosalie commits an unforgivable betrayal, inciting Frances to strike out on her own.

Decades later, the women reconnect in San Francisco and realize how widely their lives have diverged. While Rosalie is a housewife and mother, Frances works as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence. 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 lonely spinster, Frances is about to begin the most fascinating and intrigue-filled years of her life.

Amid active volcanoes, forbidding wildlife and flora, 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, the universal pursuit of a place to call home, and the reverberations of secrets we keep from others and from ourselves.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This is a taut, powerful tale of human relationships and the sacrifices people make to maintain their balance." - Publishers Weekly

"Despite some improbable plot twists, appealing characters and vivid local color make for an entertaining read." - Kirkus

"In this shrewdly textured yet directly told tale of an unorthodox life, Amend fills Franny's worlds of poverty, intrigue, and indignant old age with rewarding vibrancy and touching vulnerability." - Booklist

"In Enchanted Islands ... is a nostalgic and yet entirely unsentimental tale told with elegance and gravitas from a distance that is somehow both interior and objective. And, as the best novels do, it raises more questions than it answers." - Jill Alexander Essbaum, New York Times bestselling author of Hausfrau

"Allison Amend is a wonderful writer - generous and psychologically astute - and Enchanted Islands is both a sweeping epic and a moving exploration of the intricacies of friendship. This is a beautiful novel that will stay with me for a long time." - Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

"In this compulsively readable novel, exotic locales and international espionage bend before the greatest intrigue of all: the life of a captivating mind ... Amend exerts exquisite control throughout, deftly weaving in real history and gracing her prose with flourishes that lend the work a symphonic feel. Enchanted Islands is as moving as it is impossible to put down." - Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

"Allison Amend's dazzling Enchanted Islands is steeped in the wondrous history of the Galápagos and bursting with the magic of pure invention. An elegant stylist and a masterful chronicler of the most hidden and luminous corners of the human experience, Amend is a spectacular talent, and this brilliant novel is the evidence." - Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me

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Author Information

Allison Amend

Allison Amend, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is the author of the novels A Nearly Perfect Copy and Stations West, which was a finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Oklahoma Book Award. She is also the author of the Independent Publisher's Award-winning short story collection Things That Pass for Love. She lives in New York City, where she teaches creative writing.

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