A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.
In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.
Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.
A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.
Review: Emily Wilson’s perfect husband turned out to be not so perfect…he left her for another woman. Emily wrote a best-selling novel several years prior to the opening of the story, but has been living with writer’s block ever since and cannot seem to find a story. Somehow, Emily’s great-aunt Bee learns of Emily’s woes, and invites her to visit her on Bainbridge Island, in the Puget Sound. This is one reason I was so excited for this book, as I have been to Bainbridge Island and fell in love with the island.
Emily says that she will stay for a month, and leaves New York City the day after her divorce is final. While staying in her Aunt Bee’s house, Emily reminisces on the countless summers she spent there as a young girl. She had been away from Bainbridge Island for ten years, because her husband never wanted to visit. Aunt Bee’s home is rather large with several rooms that Emily had never really been able to discover, as Aunt Bee kept them locked. This time, instead of having her usual room (the one she remembered from her childhood), she is placed in a room where she discovers a diary in the nightstand drawer. While Emily is reading the diary, she actually thinks it is her aunt’s writing of a fictional story, and not an actual diary from 1943. But Emily starts to uncover facts that support her thoughts that this might be an actual diary, and not a work of fiction. The story in the diary progresses as Emily is courted by two different men on the island…one from her past and another whom her Aunt Bee warns her against.
I have to admit that I had high hopes for this story, but had a difficult time with the flow of the language. It seemed rather stilted, especially the conversations. Everyone talked the same way, and Ms. Jio seemed to have a thing against contractions. I did enjoy the diary parts, as the language flowed a little more smoothly. Also, having been to Bainbridge Island, from the writing I did not get a very good sense of the island itself. The ferry ride was well-described, with the smells, but you didn’t have a sense of the people on the ferry… I always found that a great place to people watch.
I found myself confused quite frequently as to the relationship between some of the characters. Aunt Bee was very strict on who she socialized with, or with whom Emily should see. The characters in the diary were some of the same in ‘present day;’ however, the author changed every single name, so you had no sense of which person was who…and that made it a little difficult to piece the story between the past and the present. Ms. Jio had good intentions in making this a mystery, but having to have it all wrap up in the last fifty pages because the correct information was not given along the way, makes it a little difficult to accept. I had a hunch of what was going on, but it was so convoluted that I found myself flipping back and forth throughout the story, trying to piece it together…I stopped myself from making charts and diagrams, though.
Emily’s character was rather flat. I really had no empathy for her and I found myself wondering several times if the main character was based on her, as she was a writer and could only write a paragraph or two at a time. I sometimes wondered if Ms. Jio did the same thing, as there were several inconsistent facts throughout the story. The two different love interests of Emily were also rather shallow. The story really doesn’t go into why she chose one guy over the other. I sometimes wonder how books get published with seemingly little editing. Wouldn’t an editor ask for more detail or more emotion?
I did give this book 3 stars, as I found I was more invested in the diary portions of the story, and wanted to see how it tied together with the present story (which was still a little confusing when all was said and done). I wish I could have gotten to know the characters better, as I am sure they all had great stories to tell. However, I don’t know if I could recommend this book. I know that several others have fallen in love with this story…I am just not one of them.
Quote: “We’re two old women who haven’t had a date in several decades, Emily,” said Evelyn. “Give us a little nugget.”