Set in the 1920s and 1930s, Honolulu explores the stark contrast between the image of the glamorous Hawaiian paradise portrayed to the mainland and the harsh reality of life on the island. With characters as vivid and richly descriptive as the history of Hawaii itself, this novel is sure to enthrall listeners.
©2009 Alan Brennert; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
I live in Hawai'i. This historical fiction contains many elements familiar to even a casual student of Oahu's history, while using a picture bride as his plot device emphasizes the cultural aspects of our local story.
I found the narrator's mangled Hawai'ian very distracting. Especially in a historical fiction containing place names still in use, one ought to make an effort to pronounce words correctly. Listening to Pa-LAH-muh mispronounced PAL-a-ma and LILY-ha used instead of Lee-LEE-ha, to point out only two simple examples of many, was very irritating; It was distracting to the point of turning off the book several times and not returning to it for weeks. I do have to say, though, that she sings a couple of little tunes within the narration, and has a very sweet voice.
BTW, it's HO-NO-lu-lu (long O sound), not Hon-a-LU-lu (short O sound) and Ha-VA-ee, not Hs-WHY-ee. If one cannot get these two primary pronunciations, what chance does something like Kawaiahao or Kahahawai have?
Fortunately, I don't speak Korean, so I can't comment on any of those words,
**for anyone who might think this is nit-picking, think of how it might be listening to a book if Penn-syl-VA-nia was constantly pronounced Pen-SYL-van-ia or FLO-ri-da was Flo-ri-DA or WASH-ing-ton was Wa-SHING-ton? It is grating and distracting, partly because it is so easily preventable.
I am a Special Education teacher. I grew up in Ashland, Oregon, but have lived most of my life in Hawaii. My favorite reading/listening genres are history and historical fiction.
Probably not. I rarely listen to books twice.
I was fascinated by the entrances of historical figures into the story. Detective Chang Apana and Henry Kahahawai were already familiar names to me. Even after living in Hawaii for almost 40 years, I had not heard of "Panama Dave" Baptiste and May Thompson, who were also real residents of Honolulu.
Ali Ahn was a good reader, but her mispronunciation of Hawaiian place names drove me to distraction. Like most mainlanders, she pronounces the name of this city, "Hahnahlulu" instead of "Honolulu". Ewa is pronounced "Ehvah", not "ee-wah". When she read "Palama" and "Waimanalo" I had to pause to figure out where she was talking about. How I wish readers would ASK a local resident how to pronounce place names.
The Picture Bride
I have to say this is the best book I've read this year and the second best book I've ever read.
I love historicals with rich views on other countries and cultures. I also love books about family. But this book was so much more. This was a book about a strong woman, who despite every single obstacle she was faced with, rose above. And it's important to know that not only did she continue but she accomplished so much more than anyone could have ever imagined. Her road was difficult and filled with so many twists and turns, rights and wrongs, and happy and sad moments.
The author had a wide group of side characters that quickly became very important. He brought them all alive and gave them strong roles in the story. He was able to bring out so much emotion in me that I hadn't sobbed or laughed this much since I read The Shoemaker's Wife by Adrianna Trigiani.
Not only did the author succeed in throwing us into the lives of these characters, but he took us on a tour of Korea and Oahu. His descriptions were vivid and amazing and made me feel that I was there seeing it with my own eyes.
This is one of those books that will "stick" with me forever and I recommend this for anyone that wants to be a part of a rich vivid tale of a strong woman.
The audio performance was okay ... pronunciations were not the best and that is important in audio books but the story was so good it was almost forgivable.
MOLOKA'I is one of my favorite books of all time, so it was with a little trepidation that I embarked upon HONOLULU. I needn't have worried. Mr. Brennert is a master storyteller, and the narration by Ali Ahn was spot-on. I loved this book ! In addition to an engaging story, I learned a tremendous amount about Hawaiian culture and history. The characters are memorable, and the story is unforgettable. Highly recommended !!!
I liked this book, which tells the story of a group of immigrants to the US (Hawaii) and how they are frowned upon by so called better people (ordinary Americans and other immigrants). How they fight for their lives and how they survive and finally suceed (in a way) by sheer perseverance and doggedly hard work is a very good story, not lacking in suspense. Well told and well worth listening to.
I am retired and am busier than when I had a full time career. I don't get time to read; but my Ipod fills the gap.
Glad I got this one. It was very interesting about the history of the introduction of Asian people into the fabric of the Hawaiian culture.
Yes. I enjoyed the look into both Korean and Hawaiian culture. Brennert is a skillful writer, depicting the feelings and thoughts of women, the moores of Korean culture, and the ups and downs of female friendship with grace and skill.
As other reviewers have said, knowing that the place names are mispronounced does take away from the joy of the narration, but the narrator otherwise did a very good job.
I have purchased Moloka'i, and look greatly forward to reading both is, and Brennert's new book Pallisades Park. I recommend Mr. Brennert's work to any of my friends who have interest in Hawaiian history, historical fiction, and character-driven plots.
I first heard Ali Ahn in Heather Gudenkauf's These Things Hidden, where she has one of three narrative parts. Honolulu was a better narrative performance by far.
With the exception of Gin, I have to say Ahn's portrayal of Beauty, as a kind but flighty woman, was well-done. Brennert's portrayal of many types of female characters are skillful. I wish Gin's husband had been more drawn-out, but I did like how he grew throughout the book.
Great book, great introduction to a talented author.
Connecting the story from so many years ago to now. I could almost feel myself standing in the places she talks about.
None that I have read thus far.
For the most part, pleasant to listen to. At the risk of being nit picky - I must say, two things bothered me. I didn't care for the parts where she sings, and her mispronunciation of some of the Hawaiian words. She put the accent on the wrong syllable of some of the Hawaiian words. (for instance PALama should be PaLAma).
Amazingly Strong Women
Enjoyable and enlightening story, with some parts that very much angered me learning what the Korean woman had to deal with.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
The most important thing to know about Honolulu, since the title may be why it has hit your radar, is that is not about Honolulu or Hawaii. Hours 11-13 are about a series of crimes and trials that proved pivotal in the social history of Hawaii, but otherwise, Hawaii functions solely as a generic setting -- any locale with plantations, factories, and exploited immigrants would have sufficed.
The book would have been better had it stayed in Korea, where it begins. Hawaii only enters into the equation when the protagonist/narrator elects to go there as a picture bride, paid to marry a man she has never met in order to escape a culture that devalues women and to emigrate to what promises to be a land of paradise and wealth but is not. It is an interesting story and would have been better told within Korean society, as an historical novel of Korea.
Other than the two hours about the Massey trial, there are virtually no Hawaiians in the story, and few Americans (haoles). The characters are almost all Korean or other Asian ethnicities. The non-Asians are merely placeholders for the trial phase. Even that section is out of place -- other than telling us about it and how she felt, the narrator's story does not advance during that part. It reads like the Wikipedia page about the trial (yes, I read the Wikipedia page).
The main character. She is a saint. Seriously, she's up there with Mother Teresa. Hard to dislike her, she does go through some hard times (paling in comparison to typical historical dramas, cf. The Joy Luck Club). But you need a little moral ambiguity to drive character development. There is scant conflict to drive the plot, even fewer plot complications -- what little there is usually resolves quickly with positive outcomes. Her tale is charismatically read by Ali Ahn, though others point out her poor Hawaiian pronunciation. Alan Brennert's writing annoyingly forces her to use I and we instead of me and us in the objective case to make her sound foreign.
None of this makes this a bad book. It's just slightly above average, but falsely advertised as being about Hawaii. Not that I wanted a sanitized story from the tourists' eye view of Hawaii, not that oppression and discrimination did not take place, but this depiction of Hawaii as hell does not jive with the reality that I've seen and studied. Nor does it jive with the protagonists' real story except as a location.
If Hawaii is what you want, I recommend The Descendants or Hotel Honolulu, or one of a number of books, fictional and non-fictional, about the Massey Trial. Even James Michener's Hawaii. Or, as an alternative, try Brenner's Palisades Park -- an excellent book that lives up to its title, a similar story (solid if unspectacular) about an immigrant family and social and racial injustice, set around the amusement park once located on the cliffs overlooking the Hudson River and New York City (where I went as a child).
I purchased this book in preparation for a trip to Hawaii with my husband. It was perfect to get me in the mood for our trip as well as a great beach read. It was very interesting to get a taste of the history of the island of Oahu before visiting and definitely helped me to see the island and its people in a different light. I think the book was well researched and really gave me a view into a completely different world than my own. I would highly recommend it.
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