Saturday, May 7, 2011

Book Review: "The Violets of March"

By Melissa Amster

Is it possible to fall in love with a book? If so, I just fell in love with "The Violets of March" by Sarah Jio. I also learned not to judge a book by its cover. Honestly, the cover did nothing for me. I am usually drawn to bright covers with images of people and this was the opposite of all that. However, The Book Chick's review convinced me that I should look past the cover and I'm so glad I did!

Once a happily married famous novelist, Emily Wilson's marriage has just ended and her inspiration for writing her next book is non-existent. Then her aunt invites her to spend a month at her home on Bainbridge Island in Washington. While she's there, Emily discovers a diary written in 1943 and tries to unlock the mystery involved. This leads to newfound truths about the past and about what Emily needs to do to build her own future.

Ms. Jio's writing style drew me in from the beginning. She made Emily very easy to relate to and allowed me to visualize people and settings without overdoing the descriptions. All the characters were distinguishable and very interesting. The story also read like a travel brochure for Bainbridge Island and it made me want to visit the place. With her story within a story, Ms. Jio kept me captivated to the very end and I can't stop thinking about this story, even as I start on another book. I was able to feel both Emily's emotions as well as the diary writer's emotions.

However, there were a few things that nagged at me a bit. The first was that she called the story from 1943 a "diary." To me, a diary should just record one's thoughts and feelings about a situation. This "diary" seemed to record conversations and read like a novel. I thought the same thing about "Bridget Jones's Diary" when I read it back in 1998 and I loved that book anyway. I just wish the word "diary" wasn't used in either case. Yes, it includes secrets and private thoughts, but a lot of the time, the writer was thinking back on past months and still somehow recording way too much detail. Aside from that, I felt like there was an overabundance of clichés, which added a sappy factor that didn't need to be there. The story is good enough to not need clichés to carry it along. I wish she had extended the story another 100 pages, as I wanted more closure for some characters and I also didn't want to see it end!

Overall, "The Violets of March" is a beautiful and thought-provoking story. This is Ms. Jio's debut novel, which means we can only expect more amazing novels from here on out. I'm actually afraid to write a novel after reading this, as she has set a new standard for writing women's fiction. On the other hand, the story is inspirational for anyone having trouble putting a pen to paper (or fingers to keys). "The Violets of March" is a must-read that you will want to recommend even before you're halfway through with reading it.

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Carol said...

This is on my wishlist.

thanks for the review


Liza (WhoRuBlog) said...

Great review. You have me intrigued. Going to add it to my to-read list. Thanks