Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: The Violets of March

Summary: 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. -- Plume

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of THE VIOLETS OF MARCH by Sarah Jio. Ms. Jio is one of the authors who are featured on The Debutante Ball -- a group blog of debut writers. I am a big fan of the books (and the authors), and I can honestly say I've never read a book by a deb that I didn't enjoy.

I enjoyed THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, but I have to admit that I'm not quite sure I'd say I loved it. I appreciated the premise of the novel a great deal, and I enjoyed how the story wove back and forth between the present and the diary entries of the past. I also loved how Ms. Jio brought the setting of Bainbridge Island to life. She did such a great job of describing the beautiful locale that it became another character in this story.

So it sounds like THE VIOLETS OF MARCH should have really worked for me, and it did on some levels, but I had some issues with Emily's character. I just wasn't able to really connect with her and I felt as if I never got to know her. While my heart went out to her -- her husband left her for another woman and she had been experiencing writer's block for almost a decade, I didn't care about her as much as I expected. I think because I couldn't relate to her, I was left wanting for more as I read her parts of the story.

While I did experience a certain disconnect with Emily, I found that I was very caught up in the diary storyline. I loved the mystery behind the story and the characters, and I liked how Ms. Jio tied Emily's current life to the characters' past actions. Not only did parts of Emily's life mirror the past, but there were also unique connections between the characters through songs and books. In addition, I especially appreciated how Ms. Jio transitioned between the present day and the diary entries, and I thought she did a very good job of creating some extremely interesting (and memorable) characters.

I think what I most enjoyed about THE VIOLETS OF MARCH is how it made me feel while reading it. The mystery surrounding the events of the past caused me speculate, and I really enjoyed that about the story. But I also loved how this book explored the theme of loss. Loss is such a huge part of this novel -- both the present and the past story lines -- and it definitely struck a chord with me. I also enjoyed how this novel handled the concept of forgiveness. I am pretty confident in saying that most readers will be able to relate to at least some of the examples of loss and/or forgiveness in this story.

THE VIOLETS OF MARCH would make an excellent book club pick! I can only speak for my group, but I'm pretty sure that there would be some dissenting views on the character of Emily -- so that could be interesting. In addition, there are many interesting themes that appear throughout the story including mother-daughter relationships, divorce, love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and secrets. A reading guide with twelve questions is also available which will help facilitate your discussion.

I enjoyed THE VIOLETS OF MARCH a great deal. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that it's one of my top reads for 2011; however, I did find it a worthwhile read and I do think it will make for a very interesting discussion!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, I guess they all can't be top reads can they? The book sounded very alluring in other reviews, but I think it always has alot to do with where the reader lives, or where they are in their life.

Beth F said...

I am still looking forward to reading this. I love how the setting seems almost like a character. Maybe I'll like this one batter than you did.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a book I would really like - an air of mystery and a diary storyline sound really intriguing. Maybe I can talk my book club into reading it. Excellent review!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I read something about this book just yesterday. Sounds interesting.

Writer's block for 10 years? Torture.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This is just such a common theme of books lately! I love the cover though. Actually, the cover suggests to me a book I just read that was wonderful, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. (unfortunately I didn't notice at first it isn't coming out until August so I should have waited, but I couldn't resist!)

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for this very thoughtful review, Julie. I'm excited that you found several things to connect with in the story, and very grateful for your reading time. I'm excited to share my next novel with you soon. It's called "The Bungalow" and will be out form Penguin in 11 months! ARCs coming soon. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about VIOLETS and appreciate the kind words! xo, Sarah Jio

Anonymous said...

Sorry this one didn't do as well as you hoped. I'm going to give it a try because I love the time period and setting. I just won't get my hopes to high.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying perusing all of the very different reviews of this. It's been on my list to read since it first started getting buzz but I have to say, it certainly seems as if it's one of those books that calls to different readers in different ways. Thank you for your thoughts on it!