The Bungalow: A Novel

The Bungalow: A Novel

by Sarah Jio


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From the New York Times bestselling author of Always and Blackberry Winter, 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 from the author of Blackberry Winter and The Violets of March, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452297678
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/27/2011
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 528,797
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sarah Jio is the #1 international, New York Times, and USA Today bestselling author of eight novels. She is also a longtime journalist who has contributed to Glamour, The New York Times, Redbook, Real Simple, O: The Oprah Magazine, Cooking Light, Woman’s Day, Marie Claire, Self, and many other outlets, including NPR’s Morning Edition, appearing as a commentator. Jio lives in Seattle with her three young boys.

Reading Group Guide

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.


Sarah Jio is a frequent contributor to major magazines, including Real Simple, Glamour, Cooking Light, andRedbook, and is also the health and fitness blogger for She lives in Seattle with her family.


Q. What kind of research did you do in order to write this novel? Both The Bungalow and your first novel, The Violets of March, are partly set in the past - what is it about writing historical fiction that appeals to you?

While the idea for this novel came to me very quickly and vividly, I spent a few months researching life during the war, particularly island life, before I did the bulk of the writing. I wanted to get the feeling just right. But, ultimately, the biggest boost to my research came from discovering a diary kept by my great uncle while serving in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II. His daily accounts of life in the tropics during wartime were fascinating and informed my writing. I only wish he were still living so I could share this novel with him.

Q. Are the main characters in your novels the most challenging for you fully flesh out, or do you find it more difficult to bring the characters on the sidelines to life? When you’re writing, do you ever find yourself more drawn to one of the characters than you thought you might be at first?

I tend to find the sideline characters more challenging, as I want their presence to be memorable, and yet not too overstated. So the balance is an important one that I’m constantly striving to get right. And, oh yes, just like readers, I do find that I am drawn to one character more than another. But, it’s pretty typical for me to feel “one” with my heroines. While they are not me, and don’t always make the choices I make, I see them as I would friends, and I love them the same way too!

Q. What are you working on now? We got a glimpse of one of the characters from The Violets of March in The Bungalow - can we expect to see any of our favorites from The Bungalow cropping up in your next novel?

Yes indeed! I have so much fun with this, and I will share that my next novel, Blackberry Winter, which will be published in late 2012, will also feature a character or two from previous novels (and fans of The Violets of March will enjoy knowing that they will get to see Emily and Jack in a very interesting new chapter in their lives!).

Q. What drew you to the subject of the war in the Pacific for your second novel? Did you have grandparents who fought in World War II?

I first became fascinated with the South Pacific when my late grandfather shared stories of his military service during World War II. He was always very quiet about his time there, as many war veterans are, but he shared just enough to pique my curiosity, which simmered over the course of my lifetime. Also, while beginning to research this novel, I discovered the wartime journal of my great uncle, who fought in the South Pacific and wrote, in great detail, about his adventures and challenges there. His journal entries (as I mention above) fascinated me and provided valuable information for the setting and landscape of my story.

Q. In the story, the little beach bungalow down the shore from the base becomes Anne and Westry’s private sanctuary. Where did the idea for this bungalow come to you?

It’s funny, I was actually looking at photos of my honeymoon when the idea for The Bungalow first appeared in my mind. In 2001, my husband and I honeymooned in Moorea, a little island near Tahiti, and we stayed in a tiny, thatched–roof beach bungalow (if you’re thinking luxury, don’t: It was open–air, so there were bugs galore!). Still, it was a magical little place (despite the geckos and bug bites) that holds a very special spot in my heart.

Q. The present–day action of your first novel, The Violets in March, takes place on Bainbridge Island in Washington state and the heart of The Bungalow takes place on Bora Bora. Do islands as settings hold a special fascination for you?

Oh yes! I have always been fascinated with the romance and mystique of islands. I’m truly drawn to them in fiction and real life, and if I can convince my husband, I think we’ll become island stowaways at some point in the near future!

Q. Anne Calloway, the heroine of The Bungalow, is an intelligent, thoughtful woman who grows a rowdy sense of Marine humor on Bora Bora. Is she based on anyone you know or interviewed while doing your research?

Anne is purely a creation of my imagination, though I did think a lot about my grandmother while I was creating her character. Like Anne, my grandma was a nurse during the war, and though she wasn’t sent to the South Pacific, I suspect that she would have handled the heat (and the rowdy men) with just as much spunk, self–assuredness and strength.

  • What are Anne’s initial feelings about marrying Gerard Godfrey? What do you think of her assessment early in the novel that “passion is for fools?” Did you expect her to eventually come to a different conclusion? How did she change as a person throughout the course of the novel?
  • When Kitty tells Anne that she has signed up to go to the South Pacific, Anne decides suddenly to go with her. She says, “I needed to go to the South Pacific with Kitty. Why, exactly? The answer was still hazy.” Why do you think Anne felt so compelled to accompany Kitty? Out of friendship? Or reluctance to go ahead with her own wedding? Or do you believe fate had some hand in drawing her to the island?
  • What do you make of Kitty’s fainting episode at the beginning of the novel? Do you think it was staged, like Stella suggested? What were your first impressions of Kitty?
  • When Westry and Anne first meet, he says to her that “the tropics bring out the savage in all of us...this place has a way of revealing the truth about people, uncovering the layers we carry and exposing our real selves.” Did you find that to be true? In what ways?
  • At the beginning of the novel, Anne is jealous of Kitty’s ability to live in the moment – she initially finds herself unable to do so. How does that change after she falls in love with Westry? What do you think the ability to live in the moment implies about the character of a person? How does it influence Kitty’s actions? Anne’s?
  • What techniques does the author use to evoke the time period of the novel? The story takes place mainly in the past, but the very beginning and end are set in the present day. What does this framing lend to the novel? How does it color your reading of the part of the story set in the 1940s?
  • Does Anne believe what Tita tells her about the bungalow – that those who set foot there are destined to face a lifetime of heartache? Do you? Does Anne live a life of heartache? Does Westry? Or is there more to it than that?
  • How does Kitty change after she gives up Adella? Why do you think it is that she doesn’t seem to want to be friends with Anne anymore? When she explains the reasons behind her actions at the very end of the novel, did you sympathize with her?
  • Consider the female friendships in the novel. How do Stella, Anne, Liz, Mary and Kitty all support one another? In what ways do they fail one another? Were you surprised by Mary’s death? Do you think anything could have been done to prevent it?
  • Were you surprised by Westry’s behavior after Atea’s murder? Why did you initially think he acted the way he did? Were you surprised when the truth was finally revealed?
  • When Anne visits her mother in New York, her mother tells her, “When you marry, make sure he loves you, really loves you.” Anne is sure that Gerard loves her when she marries him – but does Anne love Gerard then? Why do you think she marries him? Because she loves him, or because of what she assumes was going on between Kitty and Westry? Imagine yourself in a similar position – what would you do?
  • Art plays a powerful role in this book. Why do you think Westry, Anne, and Jennifer are all so drawn to specific works of art? Have you ever experienced anything like this in your own life?
  • What were your impressions of the end of the novel? Was it the fact that justice had finally been carried out that allowed Westry and Anne to reunite? Or was it simply fate? Ultimately, did you believe in the curse?

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The Bungalow: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
csingh More than 1 year ago
Fantastic! The less I write about how great this book is, the more coherent and sane I will sound. Sarah Jio has a knack for pulling the reader into the story. She writes so eloquently that it's easy to picture yourself in the surroundings she writes about, whether its an apartment in an assisted living center in the present, a beautiful beach in a Pacific paradise, or a war ravaged hospital in Europe during World War II. This book brought tears to my eyes. It's not a light read, of course the subject material is no laughing matter either. I dare you to read it and not be moved and not be amazed by how awesome this book is.
BookReflections More than 1 year ago
Anne feels a little closed in by the expectations of her parents and her pending marriage.  Wanting to make a difference and really experience the world, Anne signs up for the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific Island with her best friend Kitty, leaving her fiancee Gerald behind.  Once Anne arrives in Bora-Bora she gets the experience that she wanted but doesn't count on finding love, drama, a mystery, and heartbreak. Oh wow, this read had a little bit of something for everyone.  Anne is a girl/woman before her time.  She wants to work as a nurse but she knows if she marries Gerald her nursing degree will mean nothing.  So she signs up.  During WWII, many women were allowed to take certain jobs held by men and they obtained certain amounts of freedom because the men were gone.  But Anne goes above and beyond that... I mean... she ends up in Bora-Bora.  It was really refreshing to see her outside the mold even more than expected.  The drama was very intriguing and though I guess certain aspects, there were many more that took me by surprise.  This is a book where the characters change and grow; though, sometimes it isn't for the better.  I turned every page with anticipating and found that this story really stuck out from the rest in this genre.  Even when I reached the last chapter, I was still hanging on to the edge of my seat, not really knowing how everything would work out.   At the same time, I would say that this is a summer read and it isn't too intense in terms of sadness and tragedy.  If you are looking for a summer read, this would be your pick.
omalane More than 1 year ago
Great book. I'm happy to have a new author to follow.
RaeOH More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the setting of WWII combined with today's world. There's love and mystery - a good combination and well played out. I don't like to give too much away so will just say I was satisfied at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written. Great time period. The ending had me in tears
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!
ethel55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anne Calloway puts her wedding on hold after training to be a nurse. She and her best friend Kitty leave Seattle for Bora Bora as members of the Nurse's Corps and their lives are changed forever. Jios' exotic descriptions are lovely, but she doesn't neglect the harsh realities of war. Much of the story is related by an elderly Anne, to her granddaughter Jennifer, but it is so well written and engaging, I found it hard to put down. Like her first novel, Jios includes a mystery within this story of people's lives and it all comes together very well.
Twink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read Sarah Jio's debut novel The Violets of March last year - and loved it. I had no doubt that I would enjoy her latest book, The Bungalow, as much. But I was wrong - I actually enjoyed it more!Anne Calloway is ninety when her granddaughter Jennifer brings her a letter - one that asks questions about a murder in 1943 and so Anne begins to finally tell her story...Anne has already gone against her well to do family's expectations for her. She and her friend Kitty both added nursing qualifications to their college degrees. "What we'd do with these credentials was of great concern to our parents. Heaven forbid we actually use them." Anne's future is already planned for her - marriage to Gerard Godfrey, the local banker's son. "Mother and Mrs. Godfrey had planned the union since I was in infancy, of course. Calloways would marry Godfreys. It was as natural as coffee and cream."But, it is 1942 and the War is on. When Kitty announces that she has enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps and is shipping out for the South Pacific, Anne does the unimaginable - she follows her heart and signs up as well.Kitty and Anne land in Bora Bora. Kitty sees it all as a grand adventure, while Anne is more reserved. But Anne is inextricably drawn to Westry, one of the soldiers on base. Together they discover an abandoned beach hut and it is here that they fall in love - and plan for a life together when the war ends. But the locals say the hut is cursed. And it may well be - a horrific event puts an end to their sanctuary - and their plans for the future.Jio has again woven the past and present together to create an absolutely addicting story. But it is the past that captured me the most. I loved the character of Anne, her decisions to follow her heart, her kindness and her innocence. Jio has captured the naivete of a young woman discovering herself in a turbulent time period. I initially enjoyed the character of Kitty as well, drawn to her sense of adventure. However, by the end of the book I quite disliked her. The setting itself is a character in the book as well. I was able to picture clear blue water, white sands, palm tree, island breezes and of course, the little bungalow. Jio's writing flows easily and effortlessly. I was caught up in the story from first page to last. It's hard to pigeonhole The Bungalow into one genre slot. It's historical, but there's a (not too hard to solve) mystery as well, but the romantic thread is the most compelling. Yes, there are coincidences that tie things up quite neatly in the end, but you know what? - It works. For a feel good read to warm you up on a cold winter night, pick up The Bungalow. Releases Dec. 27/11.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Twenty-one year old Anne who has trained as a nurse and is newly engaged, decides to spend a year as a nurse in Bora Bora during the war in 1942. She goes with her best friend Kitty and there she finds a new love, and a beach hut said to be haunted by the locals and once owned by the famous painter Paul Gauguin. What follows is a scandal and a murder that is never resolved until many years later when she is telling her story to her granddaughter and at last returns to Bora Bora to find closure. Lush tropical settings, this is a nostalgic enjoyable read. Based on an ARC from Net Galley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Moving novel. Brought to tears. Great summer read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic. It left me wanting to read more and find what was going to happen next. While reading the book I felt joy, sadness, fear, anger, and suspense. It is also amazing to see the point of view of a WW2 nurse. Bringing the history of the island, and the history of the war into the book is amazing, also seeing the effects of war from a different set of eyes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A grabber!!! A sad romantic tale during World War II in Bora Bora. The novel includes: brave nurses and soldiers, friendships, engagements, heart ache, murder, complicated relationships, secrets, and much more. Highly recommended. It is a quick read and engages the readers. Excellent character development. Other excellent historical fiction and non-fiction writers are: Mary Gibson, Frances Donnely, William Jarvis, Duncan Barrett, Eric Larsen, Margaret Mayhew, Laurie Graham, and Judith Lennox. Sarah Jio is an outstanding writer, and I plan on reading her other books. This is my second one I have read (first was The Violets of March) and both books were winners. This book deserves an A++++++++
feather_lashes More than 1 year ago
★★★½ The Bungalow is a standalone, women's fiction novel written by author Sarah Jio. In an interview I found HERE with Ms. Jio, she briefly described the premise of the book as: "At the end of her life, a woman confronts the tragedy and love -- and the Bora Bora beach bungalow -- that have haunted her for a lifetime." In The Bungalow, Ms. Jio incorporates a number of elements: history, culture, art, friendship, romance, war, mystery, and crime. She also offers a beautiful past/present timeframe which I enjoy when reading historical fiction. It's always nice to see the whole "where are they now" follow-up in my opinion. Overall, I liked The Bungalow. The historical aspect transported me to 1940's war-ready Bora Bora, and I love it when an author can make history come alive like that. This part was perfect. But my frustration grew a bit as I witnessed painfully preventable interactions negatively affect the romance element. Deceit, misunderstandings, and a few unfinished conversations had me almost yelling at the book in an effort to prevent our sweet Anne from living a different life than the one love set out for her. On the plus side, the fact I emotionally responded as such is a credit to the very engaging writing :) In the last quarter of the book though, the discoveries and secrets revealed were quite predictable in my opinion...and when it comes to mystery, I'm typically shocked by everything lol. Maybe the predictability was intentional? Overall, I enjoy Ms. Jio's writing and am always interested in reading her books when I see them at the library. The Bungalow was no exception. I bumped up my 3 stars to 3.5 just for the time and place components which I loved the most. If you enjoy the combination of women's fiction and historical fiction, or if you are just a fan of Sarah Jio, I encourage you to take a look at this one. My favorite quote: "You can never play a part in life, especially not in love."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another excellent story by Sarah Jio
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that had none of the book in the sample...way to go barnes and noble
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
A timeless and beautiful story in an exotic setting of wartime passion, mystery, love and loss, discovery of the heart, and second chances. Sarah Jio has a way of reaching in the past and connecting to the present time to find romance, mystery, intrigue, betrayal, history, love and of course, a page -turner poignant story which will allow readers to escape to the enchanting seas of the South Pacific. The name and the front cover paradise is enough to draw you into a serene island hideaway world, with a backdrop of lush tropical waters, and the simplicity of a thatched roof beach bungalow where two share more than one another. From love to war, for almost marriages, to finding true passion in Bora Bora (what’s not to like) with a blissful and romantic adventure with a solider (Anne and Westry), to a brutal crime – can these star-crossed lovers connect again some seventy years later? Sara Jio has impeccable timing as she unfolds the layers, one by one to connect all the pieces for a compelling yet passionate story of love. (It is never too late). If you love historical fiction, friendship, mystery, and love, The Bungalow is for you! Slowly making my way reading Sarah Jio’s books, pleasantly finding each holds a unique heartfelt story. Love the quote: “Marriage, my dear, is not suicide.” ¿ Sarah Jio, The Bungalow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read all of Sarah Jio's books and while I have found them all enjoyable, this is the first whose ending I didn't predict within the first chapter or two. I am surprised this was one of her earlier works, as I found it to be more sophisticated than her other books. Anyway, I read the majority of it within a day because I couldn't stand not knowing what was going to happen to Anne. All in all an intriguing story, and one that made me look forward to the release of Morning Glory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
engaging and hard to put down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago