Guest Review: The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting.
In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.
A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.
I loved how Sarah Jio wove love, mystery, past and present in her last novel The Violets of March and she has accomplished this perfect combination yet again with her latest novel The Bungalow. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest novel and Plume was nice enough to provide Paperback Dolls with an ARC. Jio’s latest novel begins in the present as Anne’s daughter is trying to solve a mystery about a beautiful sculpture at her college and Anne receives a note from Bora-Bora requesting her help in solving a long forgotten murder on the island. With this note Anne is swept back up in the past of her youth and memories of the love she has never forgotten.
Jio takes us on a journey from the young Anne Calloway who is smart and living in a time when women did not have the choices they do today. For a young girl of her time and her privilege she was expected to marry, stay home and raise children. In a brief moment she decides to head off to Bora-Bora in the Army Nurse Corps. One of my favorite quotes centers around this inevitability in Anne’s life when she is told “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 wish I had followed this advice a few times in my own life.
The story takes shape as Anne discovers the true nature of others, the reality of her childhood friendship and the beauty of love. I could imagine lounging on the beach in the warm breeze and the beauty of young love. I have to admit that I loved The Violets of March more but I think it’s because I could identify with the character and what was going on her life than I could with Anne. I also thought the mystery aspect was less exciting in The Bungalow than it was in Violets however, the romance and complicated relationships involved among friends was just as endearing in this book.
Overall, I finished the book quickly and loved the fact that it centered on nurses in WWII. The descriptions of the Bora-Bora made you feel as if you were there walking on the beach with your feet in the water, sand between your toes and the breeze in your hair. I was engrossed in the changes in Anne as she meets Westry and discovers what passionate love is and with her despair as her friendship with Kitty begins to falter after so many years. Jio once again has written a touching story of the complex relationships in our lives and how they affect us. I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for an engaging quick read.
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