Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Title: The Violets of March

Author: Sarah Jio

Genre/Pages: Fiction/304

Publisher: Plume

Release Date: April 26, 2011

Rating: 3.5 bookmarks

Source: Author via the publisher

Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis:  Set on the enchanting island of Bainbridge in the Puget Sound up in the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Jio’s debut novel weaves together two stories about love, loss, and discovery.

I vividly recall spying The Violets of March on the pages of Edelweiss several months ago.  The blurb and cover hooked me–I’m a sucker for dual story lines, lost loves, and uncovering secrets.  Sitting down to read it, I was quickly captivated by the storyline, characters, and the setting.

20-something Emily Wilson leaves New York City for Bainbridge Island nursing a trifecta of ‘brokens’: her heart, her marriage, and her creative spirit.  Almost 10 years have passed since she published her best-seller and when great-aunt Bee invites her back to the safe haven of her childhood, Emily doesn’t hesitate.  She travels to Washington hoping it will be the panacea to all that ails her.

The story that unfolds over the next 300 pages kept me reading late into the night.  While I was interested in Emily and the relationships she builds and rekindles, I was more interested in the story and mysteries she unraveled by way of an old diary discovered in a drawer in her room.

As Emily tries to learn more about Esther, the mysterious author of the diary, she’s met with roadblocks in every direction.  Her great-aunt, mother, and all the neighbors who do know things refuse to share them with Emily.  As she gets closer to the answers, she realizes that the people who play starring roles in the diary story of 1943 could still be walking the shores of Bainbridge Island.

Ultimately, Emily’s tenacity brings answers and closure, but at what cost?

While I really enjoyed The Violets of March, there were a few issues that left me feeling this was a good read as opposed to an outstanding one.

Some of the transitions and suspense-building plot twists were awkward or forced.  Just as Emily was coming close to resolving something, the phone would conveniently ring…or she would be too tired to read one more page of the diary.  I understand what Jio was doing but feel like these stalling tactics could have been a bit more subtle.

Aunt Bee was a masterful blocking figure and refused to answer any questions or even discuss what happened back in 1943, but her refusal to discuss anything–especially when she’s portrayed as an intuitive old auntie–left me feeling tepid about her as a character.

Characters going by nick-names or using middle names as their first names made for a convenient way to hide identities until the big reveal at the end.  There aren’t a ton of options here for Jio but three or four characters going by other names 60 years ago seemed like a bit of a stretch to me.

Those things said, The Violets of March still tells a good story, and I was invested in the characters and mystery that shrouded them.  I loved Jio’s description of the island and would love to visit it some day soon.  This novel would be a perfect summer read and also has depth and discussion potential as a book club choice.

Additionally, Sarah Jio is hosting a giveaway of her book and you can register to win a copy on her website.

Here are some other perspectives on The Violets of March:

Meg at Write Meg!

Julie at Booking Mama

Danielle at Chick Lit Reviews

Kristen at BookNAround


  1. That sounds great for a debut novel! I have a feeling we’ll be seeing some great things from the author in the future.

  2. The setting of this one is what grabbed me because it’s not normally the type of book I’d pick up. The author did a good job of pitching it to me too, so I bit. I will probably not be able to get to reading it for another couple of weeks, but I’m lookingt forward to it.

  3. I can definitely see what you mean about the convenient way in which many characters went by different names within the pages of the diary — I thought that was a little too simple, too, and suspected it all along . . . though I hadn’t worked out who was who until the end! Still, a solid read and one I very much enjoyed. I was completely caught up within the diary’s story and finished very quickly!

  4. I’m pretty sure I read a review of this elsewhere that had the same complaints. It is a shame that she couldn’t find a way to keep the mystery going without resorting to tricks or gimmicks or choices that felt untrue to the characters.

  5. Hmm….I’m not sure how I feel about the sound of this book. It really annoys me when an author overuses the overly obvious suspenseful moments. Changing the names on so many people definitely seems like cheating when it comes to hiding the identity of people, however, Meg’s comment made me want to read it just to try to figure out who is who and I don’t even know who the people are that we’re talking about.

  6. any book that keeps you reading up late into the night is a good book to me. most of the reviews i’ve ran across were pretty good so i think i’ll give this one a shot and just try to overlook some of its flaws.

  7. I love mysteries – really the only fiction that I read anymore. And despite the criticisms, still sounds like a solid read. Thanks Nat!

  8. I really loved this one, I thought it was just so charming and it captivated me the entire time. That being said, I see what you mean about the awkward transitions. And while I was reading the book, I didn’t understand why Bea was so standoffish about her past, but once I read the ending that made sense to me.

  9. I love the cover of this book — just beautiful! From how you described it, seems like a summer-ish sort of read, for a time when you’re just sailing along and don’t want to think about the little awkward parts too much.

  10. Thanks for a great review…love this type of story and it is on my to be read list!

  11. This one looks good to me and now you’ve lowered my expectations just enough that I will probably really enjoy it 🙂

  12. I’ve really wanted to read this and your review just makes it more appealing. I love your honest assessment. 2 Kids and Tired Books

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