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Enchanted Islands

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,924 ratings  ·  429 reviews
Inspired by the midcentury 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 at the brink of World War II.

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1882 to immigrant parents, Frances Frank
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  2,924 ratings  ·  429 reviews

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Angela M
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it

Based on the journals of Frances and Ainslie Conway, this is a fictional portrayal of what has been suspected about their time spent in the Galapagos - that they were spies for the US. I can't judge if that is true or not but I can say that Allison Amend has definitely given us an engaging story . This turned out to be fast reading for me - two days - because I always wanted to know what Frances was doing and where she'd be. There are a amazing descriptions of life on the islands and moving mome
Elyse  Walters
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Emotional page turning intimacy right from the start. Although it starts in Los Gatos, Calif. in a Jewish retirement facility ....( so I knew that was fiction).. We've never had a Jewish retirement facility in Los Gatos. In San Jose, yes.

Frances and Rosalie ordered lox ( smoked salmon) in a diner in Los Gatos...and I knew that, too, was fiction. We've never had anything close to resembling a Jewish diner in Los Gatos.
The synagogue they went to...could 'only' have been my own: "Shir Hadash". It'
Diane S ☔
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
l love the way this novel starts, with Frances and Rosalie as two elderly ladies living in a Jewish retirement facility. An award given to Rosalie for her war works preys on Frances whose own war sacrifices must remain secret. So the reader is taken back in time to when the two ladies were children and first became friends and we learn the story of the Conways.

For me knowing that the characters being written about were actual real people, added special touch. Taken from the journals of Frances w
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Even large worlds have small islands.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Frances who is born in 1880's Minnesota as she grows up with her best friend Rosalie. They develop secrets from each other, and from themselves, at a young age. And it is this theme of secrets that ties the whole story together.

Later in life Frances becomes a military spy on the Galapagos Islands with her fake (or is he?) husband, Ainslie. They too have their share of secrets, maritally and militarily, and we read a
Bam cooks the books ;-)
*4.5 stars

I won this outstanding book in the Doubleday Keep Turning Pages reading group giveaway. I am grateful for the opportunity to read it hot off the presses! I also won a fun gift box from Chatterbox, promoting the book. Many thanks to the publisher and author!

This work of historical fiction is based on the real-life memoirs of Frances Conway who was sent with her husband to live in the Galapagos Islands by US naval intelligence shortly before WWII--to keep an eye on Germans in the area. I
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
I was so excited to get an ARC of this book as it sounded intriguing and the cover is stunning! I was not disappointed. The novel is loosely based on the memoirs of Francis Conway. She had a very unique life story to tell.

As the novel opens we are introduced to the young Francis living in Duluth, Minnesota. She always yearned to leave the small town and begin a new life for herself. When her best friend Rosalie decides to run away from home Francis jumps at the chance. The two travel to Chicago
"You're not allowed to read this. I'm not even really allowed to write it."

Now, that's the way to start a book to get me interested.

Enchanted Islands is a fictional narrative based on the memoirs of Frances and Ainslee Conway. The story begins in a Jewish retirement home in the San Francisco area. Frances and her friend Rosalie are old ladies now. We see them at this stage for a few minutes and then Frances begins her story.

Divided into five parts, the story, starting with Part Two, is a real p
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
There's some good writing in here, but the story was a hot mess.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I was excited to sign up for Book of the Month because practically all the literary people I follow in social media were doing it. (I admit! I'm a lemming!) It was a beautiful moment getting that first package in the mail because it was in a beautifully lined box and wrapped in plastic and it came with a bookmark and notecard... the entire experience was very lush and satisfying. It helped that the book inside was this one, which I picked because it was set in the Galapagos Islands and the cover ...more
I found Enchanted Islands to be less than enchanting, and certainly did not learn much of anything new about the past in the process. The aged Frances Conway, soured by envy of her childhood friend's acknowledged success, begins to reminisce about the life which led her to the Galápagos Islands. An auspicious start to the tale of Frances and best friend Rosalie, daughters of Jewish immigrants and their brave new beginnings at sixteen in New York was exciting. From then on, the pickings became ra ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“Enchanted Islands” is as enchanting a story as the islands it describes. This is a fictionalized account of the journals written by Frances Conway about her life, particularly the years she spent as a spy on the Galapagos Islands. Allison Amend is a brilliant writer. This story completely captured my imagination from page one to the final word. I loved the characters of Frances and Ainslie; their relationship was fascinating. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good story.
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-release
Some descriptions might lead you to believe this book is about a marriage between spies, but really it's about a lifelong friendship shared by two very different women, Frances and Rosalie. The facts that Frances eventually becomes a spy, enters into a marriage arranged by the US government, and lives in the Galapagos Islands for months in primitive conditions are, surprisingly enough, not the most important plot points.

And it works out that Frances and Rosalie's friendship is the axis on which
Jessica Sullivan
This is not really a spy novel, and for that I am thankful. I honestly wouldn’t have read it if it weren’t a Book of the Month selection, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance, as I found it immensely fulfilling.

It is a novel about spies, yes. But really it reads like a fictionalized memoir of Frances Conway, who at 54 years old entered an arranged marriage with a naval intelligence officer and accompanied him to the Galápagos Islands in the 1930s to figure out why so many Germans were settling dow
This one was a study in contradictions for me - I didn't go into it really expecting to like it much and I ended up loving it; the main character isn't the personality type that usually appeals to me but I found her endearing. The book seems like two separate tales at times (Frances' past and life with Rosalie in the "real world" vs. her "spy" life with Ainslie in the Galapagos). Oddly enough, this did not bother me: of course the section on the island is the most entertaining, but every part of ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Frances Frank would never, ever have imagined that her life would take off when she was in her 50's, never imagining that she would be married to a Naval officer more than a decade her junior, living off the land in the Galapagos Islands and doing a little spying in the years before WWII. "Enchanted Islands" is named after the books written by the real Frances Conway who did just that--and more. But this is a novel, and the novelist's skill shines in the creation of the relationships around her ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I burned through this book in just a few days and was so sad when I reached the final page! The author's depiction of the complicated friendship between women, a less than traditional marriage (also complicated), wartime spying, and life on a hardscrabble island kept me enthralled at every moment. More, please!!
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I cannot believe I didn't review this! I found this to be an excellent read. Another book regarding how much or little we each know about the other, even those with whom we live and/or choose to share our life. I admired Frances' bravery and courage to legally marry someone she didn't even know and then be launched on a spy mission with that person. the literal "wilds" of the Galapagos Islands! Frances is one of the most pragmatic yet resourceful people ever! It is amazing how she adapt ...more
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely fell in love with this book. Love the main character, love the writing style and voice, love her reflections on intimacy and love and friendship and what it means to participate in a relationship. Instant favorite for me. This book follows the main character from childhood through advanced age, as she enters various relationships, and how those relationships grow and change during her lifetime. She starts in Duluth, MN, and ends up going to many places in her adventurous life. Just ...more
The [Galapagos] Islands aren't the only "enchanted" thing in Allison Amend's brilliant novel. The prose, the characters, the relationships and emotions... everything about this book is perfect.
Nicole D.
This novel takes some historical context and creates a pretty average story with characters that I couldn't 100% get behind. In fact, they all had some major issue which made them somewhat unlikable.

I'm fascinated by the Galapagos. I thought The Origin by Irving Stone an enthralling book. Sadly, this book spent less than 100 pages on the islands, and there was still very little about the islands themselves. An occasional mention of a bird or tortoise. Beyond that, they could have been on any is
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Author Allison Amend weaves the story of a lifelong friendship between two girls, Frances Frankowski and Rosalie Mendel. Together the girls had run away from their homes to seek better lives in 1882. A scandalous incident drove the two apart, and they didn’t reunite until many decades later. Their lives had taken different directions.

This novel is loosely based on real people whose lives took them from Duluth, Minnesota to Nebraska, California, the Galapagos Islands and back to California. Desp
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a page turner, I couldn't put it down!
Frances is a character I haven't seen before, a woman whose life really kicks off in her fifties and who is allowed to be flawed, quiet, and to just live with her decisions.
The reflections on friendship, marriage and Amend's fantastic one-liners made this a truly enjoyable read. I didn't want it to end.
This beautifully written novel left me with plenty to ponder, a desire the read Frances' Conway memoirs and to hop it over to the Galapagos and experie
Feb 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book is one of the most poorly written and boring book I have ever attempted to read. I see a lot of positive ratings so I must be in the minority but I am at page 98 and I refuse to waste anymore time on it. This strikes me as a book written by someone in a "how to write novels class". It is not a book about spying on the Germans. It is a novel based on the memoirs of Frances Conway.
I won this book in a Chatterbox giveaway and unfortunately this is an honest review.
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
See my video review: ...more
****3.5 STARS
The major snapshot I took away from this novel was the complexity of human nature. From bizarre wartime behavior to unordinary love, Amend highlighted people who tried to accept circumstances and snatch happiness when it was made available- especially when life deviated from plan.

The story wasn't what I expected from the blurbs and internet chatter. At it's heart, this is a character study. The island setting, while a lush and exotic backdrop, is definitely secondary to the intern
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I wish I could give half stars - I'm somewhere between "I liked it" and "I really liked it". It's the kind of book that you keep reading once you pick it up, but it's not the kind that makes you want to put your own life on hold so you can finish it. I suppose this is because it touches upon the deeper layers rather than mere actions. When reading the blurb, specifically terms like "a dazzling story," I expected a fast-paced story with numerous events following each other fairly quickly, yet Enc ...more
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I forgot to log this one as read, I guess! I really enjoyed this book. I'd like to read more about the people who lived on the Galápagos Islands in the days before WW2. Since this is loosely based on memoirs, the memoirs I shall find!
Kathy Cunningham
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Allison Amend’s ENCHANTED ISLANDS is a fictionalization of real-life couple Frances and Ainslie Conway who spent four years living on Floreana in the Galápagos Islands in the years leading up to World War II. What we know of the real Frances and Ainslie comes mostly from two books they wrote about their experiences living off the grid in the tropics. We know that Ainslie worked for Naval Intelligence, and that he and Frances lived on several islands in the Galápagos. But were they really (as Ame ...more
Blaine DeSantis
Jun 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Probably a 3.5***
Interesting premise. A novel based upon the actual diaries of Frances Frank (her changed name). It is supposed to be a story of her friendship with Rosalie Mendel. The book is a quick read, but not a fast read if that makes sense! It starts so very promisingly with the story beginning at an old age home and Rosalie being honored for the work she did in WW2. Frances is her best friend and also in the old age home and laments that she cannot tell her story and nobody knows wha she
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I selected this book from my Book of the Month club offerings because of its stunning cover art, to be honest. And I am so very glad I judged this book by its cover! Enchanted Islands is a moving, compelling, and engrossing memoir-style book that is way more about friendships and self-actualization than it is about spy games. As young Frances says in chapter two, "I like books about girls," and this book and its rich and complicated sisterhoods definitely fits that bill. 4.5 stars for this book, ...more
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Allison Amend was born in Chicago on a day when the Cubs beat the Mets 2-0. She attended Stanford University and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Her work has received awards from and appeared in One Story, Black Warrior Review, StoryQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner and Other Voices, among other publications. Her debut short stor ...more

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