The Bungalow is Sarah Jio’s second novel and I have to say, I loved it a lot more than her first, The Violets of March. TVoM was a good book, but I realized that as time went on I kind of forgot about it. I’m happy to say that I think The Bungalow will remain much more vivid in my head.
I’ve sat here for over half an hour trying to come up with a good summary of the book, but nothing I come up with is as good as the description on the back of the book, so here it is:
In the summer of 1942, newly engaged Anne Calloway 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.”
That sums it up pretty good. I liked Anne – she’s just reaching adulthood in the 1940’s, back when women still had not a lot of choices in their own lives. She’s engaged to Gerard, a perfectly handsome, rich young man who she’s been matched with since she was just a child. He’s nice and all, but she also feels that lack of romance and passion that she longs for. Her deciding to go join the Army nurses is her way of getting a little adventure in her life before settling down to a perfectly normal, boring life of being a housewife and having children.
As is obvious from the description, she’s unfaithful to her fiance when she falls in love with Westry for but some reason, it didn’t bug me as much as it usually would. Sarah Jio does a good job at making Gerard seem indifferent about their relationship, and I was rooting for Anne to leave him before she even left for Bora-Bora. And then she comes to this beautiful, exotic island and she slowly falls for Westry and their love is all romantic and sweet and transcendent. You guys know how much I loathe cheating in books, so the fact that I was able to still like the characters and really enjoy the book says something about the author’s impressive story-telling abilities.
There were some secondary characters as well, that were all vivid, unique, and added to the story rather well, whether you liked them or not. For instance I HATE her friend Kitty, but she was essential to the story. I also liked Maxine, Anne’s housemaid and friend. And of course the imagery was just beautiful – it’s no wonder I read this in one sitting. For example, here’s an excerpt from the first page:
“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 fizz of a million bubbles kissing the sand. Closing my eyes tighter, I found him again, standing there amid the fog of sleep was the lifting, too quickly. Don’t go, my heart pleaded. Stay. Please stay. And he obediently appeared again with that beckoning grin, those arms outstretched to me. I felt the familiar flutter in my heart, the longing. And then, in an instant, he was gone.”
I was IMMEDIATELY sucked into the story just after reading that. And I was a little sad when I finished the book. This will be one of those books I re-read when I’m in a sappy, romantic mood.
Anyways, this was a beautiful afternoon read, and Sarah Jio’s next novel, Blackberry Winter, is on my automatic to-buy list when it comes out in September.
Sarah Says: 4 stars