Tag Archives: Spies

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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