Female friendship + old Jewish ladies + espionage + exotic location + Darwin = a delightful beach read by Allison Amend, Enchanted Islands.
Enchanted Islands is loosely based on the life of Frances Conway, a woman married to a naval intelligence officer sent to the Galápagos Islands to spy on the Germans during World War II. As Amed writes in a blog post, "Here’s what I know about the real Frances Conway: she wrote and published two memoirs about her time in the Galapagos before and after the Second World War. She died in 1968 in Los Gatos, California. I attempted to research her, but was unable to find out much about her other than where she was buried. (There’s a rumor that she and her husband were spying on the Germans who lived there, but it’s unsubstantiated). That’s it. Not a lot to go on." So, Amed built the world that Frances inhabited. The daughter of Jewish immigrants in the Midwest who seeks life in a big city, Frances' life intertwined with her friend Rosaline. The novel follows their friendship through Frances' eyes, and Rosaline often drifts out of the picture. I thought Amed was strongest when she was writing about their friendship, and the espionage bits of the novel were a bit lacking. Yet, as soon as I finished reading, I texted my mom to read it (this is the perfect book to recommend to your mom or grandma!!) because it is the perfect summer read. Rating: ★★★