Monday, April 25, 2011

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

It's always a treat to open a novel by a debut author. There's so much possibility there. What story will this author bring? Will the characters live on the pages? Sarah Jio's debut, The Violets of March, takes readers to Bainbridge Island in Washington, a small community where secrets haunt residents for decades, and generations.

Emily Wilson returned to Bainbridge Island when her life fell apart. She had once been a bestselling author, but hadn't been able to write anything for over five years. She loved and married a handsome lawyer, who left her for another woman. When her great-aunt Bee invited her to stay with her on the island, Bee and Emily's friend Annabelle knew Emily needed to heal. And, it was a restful place, until Emily discovered a diary in her bedroom, the story of a doomed romance from the 1940s. Once she immerses herself in that story, Emily will find parallels to her own life, and answers to family questions that have bothered her for years.

The diary told the story of a woman who passionately loved one man, but married another. Despite her marriage, and a baby, she still yearned for the man she had been engaged to, and rejected.  And, he still loved her, with a love that called to her, and led to tragedy for so many people on Bainbridge Island. Now, as Emily dates two men, her aunt continues to warn her there may be issues.

Jio's debut is a solid one. The parallel storylines work well to tell stories of assumptions that can doom relationships and lives. And, the reader can only hope Emily will learn from the disastrous events in the diary. But, so much in this story depends on chance encounters and accidental meetings. And, as much as I wanted to love this story, I only liked it. The large cast of characters, in two time frames, became confusing as I tried to guess who people were from the earlier storyline. Emily seems to be a voyeur, peering not only into lives in the past, but also into her own life, viewing it, rather than feeling it. Despite the author's best efforts, Emily appeared to be a researcher, rather than a real person. She just didn't come alive for me. She appeared to be trying to model her life after characters in her favorite book, or the people from the diary.

Saying all that, I'll be eager to read Sarah Jio's second novel. The Violets of March shows promise for an author who can vividly describe a setting, bringing that place to life. And, she did a beautiful job tying the past to the present, with all of the repercussions and relationships. Jio started well, but I have the feeling the future will bring more memorable characters. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this talented author, and those of us who want to read more.

Sarah Jio's website is

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio. Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. ISBN 9780452297036 (paperback), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy, hoping I would review it.


Book Dilettante said...

Sounds like an excellent book. I'd love to read this one! Hope you like the author's second book.

Book Dilettante

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sounds like a nice debut! I'll look for it. The parallel storylines sound appealing to me.

Lesa said...

I hope I like the author's second book as well. I actually have high hopes for it.

Lesa said...

The parallel storylines was actually very interesting, Elizabeth. I just had a hard time, realizing I was reading about the same people in different timeframes, and, with the older ones, with different names. Then I had a hard time keeping them straight.

Anonymous said...

I've been very interested in reading this one. Still am. I love books that delve into the past and use diaries and such. And the cover on this book is so lovely. Thanks for sharing, Lesa!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kay. I fell for the cover, too. It is charming. I hope you enjoy it!

bermudaonion said...

The reviews of this one seemed to be mixed. I need to check it out to see what I think.

Lesa said...


I hope to hear what you think. I wasn't as excited about this book as I had hoped to be.

Dizzy C said...

Sounds like a book I would enjoy.

Going on my wishlist


Lesa said...

I hope you enjoy it, Carol. Thanks!

Sarah said...

Lesa, than you very much for your thoughtful review of VIOLETS! I'm so grateful that you were able to read it, and for the kind things you said. I am excited to share my next novel, THE BUNGALOW with you in the months ahead. I think, and hope, you'll like it very much. It's out from Penguin in April of 2012. Sarah xo

Lesa said...

Thank you, Sarah. I'll look forward to THE BUNGALOW. And, I wish you good luck with VIOLETS. I've seen so many positive reviews for it. Good luck!