Book Review: The Bungalow
By: Sarah Jio
Published By: Plume
Publication Date: December 27, 2011
Page Count: 287
Source: Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction, WWII
I LOVED this one. I wasn't sure that Sarah Jio could manage to captivate me as much as she did in The Violets of March, but she surpassed my expectations. In fact, I think I liked The Bungalow just a tiny bit better than The Violets of March - which is saying a lot considering that book made my top 11 adult reads of 2011. Jio has taken the magic of the South Pacific and added the additional elements of war, romance, and murder. The Bungalow is a compelling story that I couldn't put down and can't stop thinking about even though I finished the book three days ago. The events and characters keep swirling through my mind. I also love that Jio always has such a strong sense of place in her writing. I was pleasantly surprised to see that even though the majority of this novel is set in Bora-Bora, that the Pacific Northwest does make an appearance as well.
I suppose part of what makes this read so appealing to me is the link to WWII. This is a time period that has long been a fascination of mine. However, I can't think of another novel that I have read that was told from the perspective of nurses in the Pacific Theater of the war. Most of the novels I have read set in this time period focus on the European Theater, so I enjoyed the change of scenery. While this book isn't meant to be an in depth description of the war itself, I do feel that Jio does a nice job of explaining what life was like for the nurses. I can't even imagine how terrifying it must have been to be a nurse during WWII. These women were so courageous and I am inspired to learn more about the real women of WWII who served after reading this book.
Also, one of the things I've come to love about Jio's writing is her mastery at character creation. I feel like I am breathing and feeling right alongside the men and women she so lovingly brings to life. She has a way of transporting the reader into the midst of the story. Her novels are quickly becoming places I love to live in. Like The Violets of March, The Bungalow is a novel I will be rereading when my heart aches to spend some more time with Westry or to find comfort in the friendship of Anne. There might even be moments when I crave spending some more time with Kitty! Perhaps I invest too much emotion into characters, but I truly feel it is the mark of a talented writer when I consider the characters to be more than just figments of my imagination and words on the page. Furthermore, it was so nice to see Elliott again - even if it was only for a brief while. I have missed him.
Above all else, The Bungalow is a story of loyalty and hope. The sweeping romance will have your heart pounding as you race to the conclusion. This is one of those books that makes you want to forget everything else and immerse yourself in the story from start to finish.
Sarah Jio has solidified her place in my favorite author list after this one and I cannot wait to see what she will write next. She never ceases to shatter my heart and then put it all back together again. If you haven't given her writing a try, you're missing out. I highly recommend her work to fans of historical fiction, mysteries, and love stories.
One Last Gripe: The mystery in this one was pretty easy to solve. That wasn't a deal breaker for me because I loved so many other aspects of the book, but I kind of missed having to work for it like I did in The Violets of March. AND (yes, I know this is technically two gripes) I really wanted to know what Mary's letter from Edward said.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Westry and Anne's time at the bungalow
First Sentence: Tuck a slip of paper into a flimsy envelope, seal it with a swipe of the tongue, then send it on its way.
Favorite Character: Its a tie between Anne and Westry
Least Favorite Character: Kitty
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.