Book Buzz: Enchanted Islands

The flora and fauna of the island of Galapágos provide the piquant backdrop for Enchanted Islands, a novel that reads so much like a memoir I was sure it had to be true.

Book Buzz: Enchanted Islands

Much to my satisfaction, I found out at the end (spoiler alert) that it was based on a true story of a gutsy woman who led quite a remarkable life.

Enchanted Islands

Women born a century ago were largely expected to live a pre-scripted life: marry, become a homemaker, have children. Frances Frankowksi, born in the late 1880s to Polish Jewish immigrants who settled in Minnesota, forged a different path that would be considered daring even in modern times, let alone the early 1900s.

Frances spent her childhood sharing a small apartment with her parents and siblings. She envied her best friend Rosalie, who seemed to have it all: beauty, an effervescent personality, a richer lifestyle, and parents who approved of education. Frances’ parents insisted she quit school to help pay the family’s expenses.

One day, Frances was shocked to learn about a dark secret in Rosalie’s family, the family she had thought was so perfect. With Rosalie wanting to escape, and Frances willing to accompany her, the two girls decided to run away to the big city of Chicago.

They found jobs to sustain a meager lifestyle. Rid of the strictures that had bound them, they enjoyed the independence and city life, until the time that Frances was shocked to find that Rosalie committed an unforgivable betrayal. Frances fled Chicago, and the girls lost touch for many years.

Rosalie’s life ultimately took an expected turn: she became a housewife and mother. Frances got a job working as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence that she kept for many years. As the country was on the brink of World War II, she was offered an unusual top secret assignment: marry American undercover agent Ainslie Conway and move to the Galapagos Islands to investigate the Germans living there.

Frances, unattached and childless, and bored with the humdrum life she had been living, accepted the assignment. She would marry a man she didn’t know and move with him to the remote Galapágos Islands. She had no idea how unconventional this marriage would turn out to be.

Talk about roughing it! The island was undeveloped and barely habitable. In preparation for living in those conditions, Frances and Ainslie had been trained how to hunt, grow their own vegetables, construct a house, and rely on their wits to overcome enormous challenges. Alone except for several other island residents, life was a very solitary existence. They stayed on the island two years. This is when Frances began writing her memoir, which now I can’t wait to read.

Enchanted Island has several themes: the vagaries of friendship, wartime adventure, marital secrets. Author Allison Amend describes the conditions on the island so vividly you feel like you are there, and I’m not sure how anyone could have toughed it out as they did.

For me, there is always an extra dose of satisfaction when I am reading a novel based on fact. What an interesting story this turned out to be — not at all what I expected.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Enchanted Islands. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.


I received a copy of Enchanted Islands from Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House, for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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49 Thoughts on “Book Buzz: Enchanted Islands

  1. robin rue on May 8, 2017 at 9:28 am said:

    That sounds like a great summer read. I am adding it to my reading list.

  2. This sounds like a great book! I am looking for a new read so will go and pick this up. I love reading book reviews as its great to have that insight!

  3. I have never heard of Allison Amend before this post. I need to check her out. I will definitly be entering your giveaway!

  4. The Playful Parent on May 8, 2017 at 1:47 pm said:

    I will definitely be entering your awesome giveaway and I had never heard of this author before reading your article thank you for sharing

  5. I love books that are true, or based on true stories, and I also love stories about adventurous women so I’ll have to check this one out!

  6. This sounds really intriguing. Frances sounds like she had an interesting life. I must pick this up!

  7. Oh no! I wish that I could win the book but I don’t live in the US. I can’t wait to read it as I am gasping to know whether she fell in love with the man that she was told to marry x

    • hbludman on May 9, 2017 at 9:51 am said:

      I’m so sorry, Ana. This is the publisher’s request, not mine!

  8. I am fascinated by the Galapagos islands and a trip is high on my bucket list. Can’t wait to read the book that takes place in this fascinating place.

    • hbludman on May 9, 2017 at 9:52 am said:

      Thanks, Meryl. I have friends who went recently and it is just as fascinating as we think. I would love to go, too.

  9. I’m always looking for a new book to read. This sounds like a good one to pick up.

  10. Rebecca Swenor on May 8, 2017 at 11:27 pm said:

    Enchanted Islands sounds like a great read. I love stories that are based on real life experience and this book seems like something I would love to read. My sister would love this one too. Thanks for sharing a great review.

  11. I have been looking for a book i can read while in labour to distract me. This sounds like an exciting and really good read, more so since it is based on a true story. I will be checking this out in our bookstore this coming weekend.

  12. I love islands. Sunshine, beach, relaxation. It’s the best really. Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m so gonna bookmark!

    XOXO // Check out my latest post if you like 😉

  13. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in a world where you got married and went off to live in a world you were not used to. The world was so different back then, which is why these types of novels are always interesting.

  14. Looks like an interesting book. I enjoy your posts and your enjoyment your get from books and reading. I will have to give this book a try.

  15. Blair Villanueva on May 9, 2017 at 4:29 am said:

    This book is interesting. A lady who have courage to chance her future, and are willing to do it by any ways. Indeed a modern woman. I’ll check this availability from my favorite bookshop 🙂

  16. Mimi on May 9, 2017 at 9:12 am said:

    Thanks Helene- I’m putting it on my list.

  17. The title alone reminds me how much I want to visit the Galapagos.

    Your review makes this book sound enticing and I’d love to learn about the relationship between these two women. I also love books based on facts so I’ll – again- have to add this to my reading list. Remind us when the memoir by Frances comes out!

    Another wonderful review, Helene.

    • hbludman on May 10, 2017 at 9:46 am said:

      It’s already out, Cathy! I have to get my hands on a copy.

  18. I have not heard of this book but it sounds like a lovely summer read. I am always on the search for a new book. Great review.

  19. I love reading, this looks like a great read! I am going to have to check it out, thank you!

  20. Nay on May 9, 2017 at 2:57 pm said:

    The front cover alone would interest me! It looks so interesting. The story sounds good too. A great holiday read.

  21. Sounds like a book I would really enjoy. Shame I’m outside the US, would have loved to win a copy

  22. This sounds like a really good read! I’ve just spent the weekend building bookshelves, and would quite like to add this book to them!

  23. Michelle Waller on May 10, 2017 at 9:13 am said:

    This sounds like an amazing book! I want to read a new book a week over the summer, and this sounds like the perfect one to get my list started with.

  24. This is quite interesting. I love that it doesn’t just have one story but several ones. It’s really going to be exciting to read because you’re certain that it won’t become boring.

  25. Elizabeth O. on May 10, 2017 at 1:45 pm said:

    I would love to read this book, it’s really fascinating and I’d love to see how the story unfolds. There are plenty to read about as well.

  26. Looks like another great read. Now that I own a kindle, I can’t seem to get anything else done.

  27. Tiara Wilson on May 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm said:

    I’ve been on the prowl for a new book and this book looks very interesting. Maybe I should get this book and read it. I will have to add it onto my list of books that I need to be getting to reading this summer.

  28. This sounds like an interesting book. It will be hard to put down once you start.

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