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Once Upon an Island

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Once Upon An Island is the true story of a young couple who did buy their dream island! David and Jeanne Conover bought Wallace Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands in the 1940's with a dream of building a summer vacation resort. The book retells their adventures and misadventures, their comic failures and satisfying successes.

207 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1969

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David Conover

15 books3 followers

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5 stars
47 (38%)
4 stars
43 (35%)
3 stars
23 (19%)
2 stars
8 (6%)
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0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews
Profile Image for Helen.
558 reviews17 followers
June 7, 2009
When we come home from a trip to Canada I never want it to be over. So I always try to buy a book written about the locality. This is one of the best.

It is about a couple who bought their dream island on the east coast of Vancouver Island. It all began in 1946 when they decided to sell, pack up and drive 1,200 miles from Los Angeles to British Columbia. All the ins and outs of this decision are gone into in detail. Had I been the woman it would never have happened. The story of their life and survival and how long it took for them to actually make it home is pretty darn good.

At points I thought the husband a complete idiot and in possession of no feelings whatsoever. He seemed to always put his own needs above those of his wife and later childs. That his wife stuck with him through all he put her through said volumes about her. In the end though there is no disputing the fact that if not a smart thing to do at least they could say they had the adventure of a lifetime.

In August of 2006 we took a float plane from Victoria to Salt Spring Island. We got to see David Conover's residence and island where he lived and wrote.
Profile Image for Kathy Davie.
4,644 reviews699 followers
November 18, 2010
This story I never get tired of. I've been reading and rereading it since it first came out. Robinson Crusoe for the 20th century.
Profile Image for Christine.
156 reviews4 followers
January 29, 2009
Fascinating autobiography by the famous photographer David Conover who discovered Marilyn Monroe when she was still working at an airplane factory in the mid forties.
Shortly after his wife and Conover bought Wallace Island in the San Juan Islands close to Vancouver Island and turned into a resort.

They escaped every day life and the regular 9 to 5 office jobs, but had to work a lot harder and longer every day in order to make a living.

So everybody who dreams of escaping life's demands and stress and live on an island instead, read this book and think it over :).

The sequel is called "One Man's Island" and there is another sequel out called "Sitting on a Salt Spring".
1,352 reviews8 followers
July 25, 2020
I think this is a great story about a young, married couple who lived their dream when they risked everything and purchased an island. Their difficulties were great and I didn't know if they would make it or not. There were times when everything went well and other times when nothing went right. They made in through the first yr. by the skin of their teeth and turned one yr. into twenty making the island a simple vacation resort. Just a very interesting story.
Profile Image for Andrew.
223 reviews1 follower
July 22, 2017
I love reading stories about places I have traveled to and this is my favorite true story about an island paradise that I love and visit as often as I can. My only wish is that more of the buildings featured in the story had been preserved so that others can almost re-live the wonderful experiences described in the book.
238 reviews
November 3, 2019
I actually only read the reader's digest condensed version of this book, but it was really good, especially as a glance into another time. If I didn't have a million books on my "to-read" list already, I'd put this one on there too.
Profile Image for Luciene.
25 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2021
Absorbing, adventurous and distressing! This autobiographical novel will make you travel to Wallace Island and experience the joys and sorrows that come from living in the wild. Simply unputdownable!
1 review
May 21, 2021
I have just finished ready my 1969 First Edition of this book and well put together.
Profile Image for Kala.
57 reviews2 followers
August 3, 2022
The 60's era casual racism & sexism is a bit distracting, but otherwise a very sweet & quick read.
Profile Image for Dana.
77 reviews6 followers
July 19, 2016
When I read this as a kid in one of my grandmother's Readers Digest Condensed Books, I never thought I'd live so close to the San Juans / BC gulf islands; in fact, i probably couldn't have told you where the book's events took place. I only remember being fascinated by the young couple's story. I picked this up off the library free table, and it was a joy to reread as an adult. I've always been drawn to tales of survival and self-sufficiency--Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Cay, Z for Zachariah, and so forth--and Dave and Jeanne's tale fits squarely (emphasize the SQUARE) in that category.

California newlyweds who work in, I think, the aircraft business post-WWII (this part is a little fuzzy), Jeanne and Dave decide to leave it all behind to buy an island off the coast of Vancouver Island. They work for a year to become self-sufficient, building a cottage for vacationers and facilities for travelers floating through. Their challenges -- health, marital, financial, weather, and social -- are detailed and interesting.

Anyone who's moved to the Pacific Northwest in the summer will relate to the intense infatuation Jeanne and Dave fall into for their island paradise and the intense claustrophobia and depression that sets in when they are basically trapped in their one-room cottage for the rainy cold winter.

Despite being threaded through with a bit of religious glurge and some gender/race attitudes that are less than enlightened, Conover's writing is readable and unsparing. He does not sugarcoat the challenges they faced and the ignorant hubris that sometimes led them into dangerous waters (pun intended). Passages from Jeanne's diary show her fears and frustrations as well.

Wikipedia informs me that part of Wallace Island is now a provincial park, and that I could be there in less than four hours by road/ferry. Anyone up for a road trip?
10 reviews
August 12, 2012
An easy, compelling, and very enjoyable read. The force of will it took Dave and Jeanne to accomplish all of the work described is deeply impressive, and the reward for that work is told beautifully and simply. What stands out is the honesty of this story, as Dave details each of their struggles, especially through the winter when even their marriage was at stake. Dave's deep love for Jeanne is also quite clear and moving, and the way they undertake this adventure together and complement one another so well brings great depth to the story.
Profile Image for Stephanie A..
2,278 reviews62 followers
September 14, 2014
The sections about fighting the sea in the little boat were tedious and mundane, but once they got to the island I really liked reading about the tenacious amateurs (and later, their fearless kitty) carving a homestead out of near total wilderness. Particularly from the comfort of my snug bed in a house with electricity and city water. I also got a chuckle out of the fact that even in 1946, people were longing to escape the "hectic" consumerist nature of modern life and get back to basics.
Profile Image for Tim.
642 reviews6 followers
January 22, 2016
What a delightful story about a young couple from LA who buy a small island in BC, with dreams of running a resort. The account focuses on their perilous first year, when they go out on a limb, financially, and try to live off the land with pocket change for resources and library books for guidance. The story includes both the beauty and danger of island life.
Profile Image for Jenny Webb.
162 reviews2 followers
July 29, 2011
I read this while on vacation in the San Juan islands, highly recommend reading it there! :) I really enjoyed this book, though got frustrated with the husband...a little bull headed for my taste; but really enjoyed the story and am looking forward to finding out more about this true life couple.
2,164 reviews14 followers
February 5, 2016
A couple with a fresh vision for life goes to find a new life on an island, with little help from outside if any, and have to find their own strength and their own resources, refreshing their inner lives in the process. Refreshing read for the reader too.
Profile Image for Dav Id.
1 review
August 12, 2010
Young couple dream that did come true. What hard work bring and love between two people.View Davey Conover facebook
Profile Image for P.
424 reviews1 follower
February 8, 2014
In the 1940's a young Los Angelos couple escape the rat race to beautiful British Columbia where they buy Wallace Island, just off Saltspring Island and build their home and a summer resort.
Profile Image for Lee.
774 reviews
November 14, 2014
Interesting story of a young couple who purchase an island in the 1930's and their struggle to create a vacation resort. Nicely written for a quick read.
Profile Image for Kalen Lees.
4 reviews1 follower
November 9, 2015
I loved this book.. it was especially exciting to learn in the first chapter that the story took place about an hour from my home.
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews

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