Five Big Stars! This is a poignant love story set during World War II.
Summer of 1942 finds Anne Calloway living a quiet, sheltered life in an upper class neighborhood of Seattle. She recently graduated from nursing school and is newly engaged to the wealthy and handsome Gerard, someone she has known her entire life. Parental expectations gently prodded her into the engagement. The comfortable childhood friendship between Anne and Gerard has evolved into a warm, loving relationship but Anne finds little niggles of doubt in her mind. Is there something more to love? She chastises herself for questioning, yet she longs for passion and spark. The day of her ritzy engagement party, her best friend Kitty shows hours late in tears. She signed up for the nursing corps and will soon be headed to Bora Bora. Anne hastily agrees to go with her. On the tiny island Anne meets Westry. Soon, she is sneaking away to see him in an abandoned bungalow. Their relationship blossoms into a passionate romance. Caught in a time of war, they know they can't afford to waste a moment, for tomorrow they could be torn apart. In the small, sequestered bungalow, the two carve out a little piece of paradise. A place where they can hide from the turmoil of war. Inevitably, Anne loses her heart to Westry. As the tides of war sweep to the island, the men are called away to fight and Anne is set to return home. At their parting, a misconception sparks between them and then they are separated by an ocean of time and misunderstanding. Anne clings to the one memento of her life on the island, a gold locket worn around her neck. Seventy years later a letter arrives for Anne in Seattle. An inquiry into a murder that occurred while Anne was on the island. The fingers of fate pull a reluctant Anne back to the past. Old secrets and memories come flooding back. Can a lost love reignite?
What I Liked:
*This is an excellent historical fiction book set during World War II. I loved being swept back to those turbulent years of war, the time of my grandparents youth. The story takes you to the sun drenched shores of Bora Bora, where battles rage in the Pacific. It is a time of heated love affairs, fueled by the need for the here and now, for there may not be another meeting. It is interesting and heartbreaking to see how war ravages through everyone's lives. If you appreciate historical fiction, then you will love this book. I personally enjoyed getting a clearer picture of what the world was like for my grandparents in their youth. I found myself wishing that I could have heard all of their stories.
*I enjoyed the many facets of this book. There is Anne and Westry's affair, the war, the floundering of Anne and Kitty's friendship, a murder mystery and numerous other little tales. The author skillfully weaves all of these stories into a neat, cohesive plot, that is interesting, entertaining and throughly engaging.
*I am not a big romance novelist enthusiast, especially when it comes to pages of steamy love acts, that often overtake the story. To me, The Bungalow, is exactly how a good romance should be written. It is poignant, tender and passionate but it is done in a subtle manner. The love scenes have just the right amount of heat and passion, without delving into pages of lurid detail. Ms. Jio gives you a nice basis and then lets your imagination do the rest. I have to say, Wow when it comes to a bar of soap and tropical rain!
*I loved that I became completely absorbed into the lives of the characters. They felt like real people. I found by the end of the story that I cared very deeply for all of them. Ms. Jio does an amazing job with the characters and the story. Make sure you set aside time to read this one because once you start you will be completely drawn into Anne and Westry's world and you will hesitate to leave. A fabulous read with an ending that is well worth the journey.
And The Not So Much:
*Sarah Jio creates many memorable characters, but I felt that a couple of them lacked development. For instance, Gerard, the other man who holds a piece of Anne's heart. There is very little information on him and I wish that I had a little more detail on his life. Anne's mother is another person that was puzzling. I wanted to understand her a little better especially after Anne's visit to New York. The scene of Anne's encounter with her in the apartment was jarring and lacked any type of resolution.
*I appreciated that the story had many sub plots and most of them wrapped up neatly. At the end of the book though, I was left with a couple of nagging questions. I longed to know Mary's entire story. What happened with Edward and what led her to her final painful choice? I was not clear on all the motives behind Kitty's behavior. Why did she almost immediately begin to push Anne way on their arrival? Kitty had so many secrets and some of them were not fully revealed. Finally, I would love a little more insight into Anne's life and marriage after the war.
The Bungalow, is a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend. It is a World War II romance with a captivating story of love and loss. This is a book that will grab you and won't let go until the final pages. Even after reading this story, my mind is still lingering back in the bungalow with Anne and Westry. You don't want to miss this one. I was enthralled with Sarah Jio's book and I look forward to reading her other works. This novel will end up on my best reads of 2011 list!
"He was there, of course--in uniform, shyly smiling at me as the waves fell into the shore. I could hear them--their violent crash, followed by the fizzof a million bubbles kissing the sand."
"An old lady. I saw her every day, this woman, but her reflection never ceased to surprise me. When did I become her?
"You be yourself," she said. "And never ignore what your heart is telling you, even when it hurts, even when it seems like following it will be very difficult or untidy."
"I watched as the island grew smaller, until it appeared a mere dot on a map. A dot where so much had happened, and so much had been left behind."
A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Plume Publishing via NetGalley.