Inspired by the mid-century memoirs of Frances Conway, Enchanted Islands is the dazzling story of an independent American woman whose path takes her far from her native Minnesota when she and her husband, an undercover intelligence officer, are sent to the Galápagos Islands on the brink of World War II.
Born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1882 to immigrant parents, Frances Frankowski covets the life of her best friend, Rosalie Mendel, who has everything Fanny could wish for—money, parents who value education, and an effervescent and winning personality. When, at age fifteen, Rosalie decides they should run away to Chicago, Fanny jumps at the chance to escape her unexceptional life. But, within a year, Rosalie commits an unforgiveable betrayal, inciting Frances to strike out on her own.
Decades later, the women reconnect in San Francisco and realize how widely their lives have diverged. While Rosalie is a housewife and mother, Frances works as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence. There she is introduced to Ainslie Conway, an intelligence operator ten years her junior. When it’s arranged for Frances and Ainslie to marry and carry out a mission on the Galápagos Islands, the couple's identities—already hidden from each other—are further buried under their new cover stories. No longer a spinster living a lonely existence, Frances is about to begin the most fascinating and intrigue-filled years of her life.
Amidst active volcanoes, inhospitable flora and wildlife, and unfriendly neighbors, Ainslie and Frances carve out a life for themselves. But the secrets they harbor from their enemies and from each other may be their undoing.
Drawing on the rich history of the early twentieth century and set against a large, colorful canvas, Enchanted Islands boldly examines the complexity of female friendship, the universal pursuit of a place to call home, and the reverberations of secrets we keep from others and from ourselves.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Allison Amend, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is the author of the novels A Nearly Perfect Copy and Stations West, which was a finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Oklahoma Book Award. She is also the author of the Independent Publisher’s Award-winning short story collection Things That Pass for Love. She lives in New York City, where she teaches creative writing.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "Enchanted Islands"
Copyright © 2017 Allison Amend.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
1. Despite everything that happens between them, why do you think Frances and Rosalie’s friendship lasts? What makes for a lifelong friendship? Do you have a Rosalie in your life?
2. Frances is alone for much of the novel. In what way does being an unmarried woman around the turn of the last century affect her choices and opportunities?
3. Do you think Frances should have known why Ainslie is so distant? Should Ainslie have told her sooner?
4. So much of Frances’ life on Floreana is spent pretending and keeping secrets. Why is she so conflicted about th is?
5. What draws Frances and Elke together? What do they have in common? Would they be friends anywhere else?
6. Frances and Rosalie have very different responses to their faith as they age. Why does Rosalie embrace her heritage while Frances leaves it behind?
7. Though Frances and Ainslie are not lovers in the traditional sense, they care for each other and need each other. Does that give love a different dimension or definition? Should Frances have stayed in her marriage? Why or why not?
8. How is life different for Frances after coming back from the islands?
9. Do you think Josef is good for Frances? Why or why not?
10. Why does Frances feel the need to tell her story at the end of her life?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A wonderful read. I would probably rate this between 4.0 and 4.5. I had heard great things about this book and was intrigued as it involved the Galapagos, one of the most magical places in the world. But the story involves much more. Much is based on a historical account of two Americans, Frances and Ainslie Conway, who were serving on an intelligence mission in the Galapagos during the World War II years. The Galapagos was utilized by both the Germans and the United States during the war. Although beautiful, life in the Galapagos was not an easy place to live as settlers were rare on the islands, and the islands as today are raw, undeveloped, and largely uninhabited or civilized. The author did an excellent job in describing the daily hardships of living so far away from civilization and how even in some cases, bonds became stronger among the settlers, even though political enemies. But the story also involved the long time friendship of two girls, Rosalie and Frances, both children of Jewish immigrants who were raised in very different ways and to the end lived very different lives but remained friends for many decades. The characters were all generally well defined. The story embraced many different themes, discrimination on various levels, immigrant children growing up in America, the hard tests of friendship, and war. For me, a very enchanting novel.
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend is a historical novel. This is the story of Frances “Fanny” Frankowski (later shortens it to Frank). Fanny is eighty-two years old and telling the reader her story (fictionalized account). Fanny was born in Duluth, Minnesota on August 3, 1882. Fanny was born to a Polish family that had immigrated to the United States. Fanny meets Rosalie Mendel. Rosalie comes from a Jewish family that encourages education. The Mendel has a nice apartment and clothes with plenty of books. Fanny was looking forward to high school until her parents told her that she had enough education and forced her out to work (though she did evade it for a while through a little trickery). But life is not always greener on the other side. Fanny soon comes to find out that Rosalie’s life is not all it appears. Fanny tries to help Rosalie but ends up getting shut out. Then one day Rosalie is ready to flee. They both take off to Chicago. Fanny gets a job and finds a nice beau. Things are great until Rosalie betrays Fanny. Then Fanny heads off on her own. Fanny finishes high school and gets a college education. She ultimately ends up in California. After teaching for many years, Fanny needs a change. She becomes a secretary at the Twelfth District Office of Naval Intelligence. This is where Fanny reconnects with her old friend, Rosalie (I cannot believe Fanny forgave her). One day Fanny is approached about a special assignment. Lt. Commander Ainslie Conway is an intelligence operator (and ten years younger than Fanny). Ainslie needs a wife for a mission in Galapagos Islands (also known as the Enchanted Isles). Fanny agrees to marry Ainslie (they can annul it after the mission) and they set out for training. The two eventually spend a couple of years on the Galapagos Islands where there is no electricity, running water, homes, etc (it sounded awful). They have to take everything with them. This is before World War II and they are checking out the German presence in the area. How will they fare on the island? Will their mission be successful? See what happens to Fanny by reading the Enchanted Islands. Enchanted Islands is a misleading novel. It is really about Fanny and Rosalie. How their friendship shaped their lives and how it endured despite betrayal and time apart. Very little of the book is devoted to the spy mission and the time the two spent on the islands. This novel started out interesting, but then the pace slowed down considerably (I believe slugs travel faster than the pace of this book). Enchanted Islands is nicely written, but it is lacking spark (something/anything exciting). It just drags on until the end. There are intimate scenes in the novel (and some inappropriate scenes with a minor) and violence. I did not understand Frances with relation to her “marriage”. It was supposed to be a marriage of convenience, but she acted like this was a real marriage (it was odd). This novel is based on real life people, but Enchanted Islands is fiction. I give Enchanted Islands 3 out of 5 stars (just okay). If you are looking for an intriguing spy novel, keep looking. I received a complimentary copy of Enchanted Islands in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel.