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Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author Alan Brennert blends history and fiction to showcase Hawaii's dynamic past in this captivating novel.

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

What listeners say about Honolulu

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Very Distracting Narrator

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.

47 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Place names - oh, why don't readers ask?

Would you listen to Honolulu again? Why?

Probably not. I rarely listen to books twice.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Honolulu?

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.

What aspect of Ali Ahn’s performance would you have changed?

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.

If you could rename Honolulu, what would you call it?

The Picture Bride

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not Really Honolulu

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).

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Such a beautiful story!

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.

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Predictable and Unrealistic

This beautiful story became marked by classic little time movie network themes. It is unrealistic for the time and not worth finishing.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Narrator KILLS the language (Literally)

The book was very interesting and it was a surprise the Massey case was included in the book. I read "Rape in Paradise" the account as told by a reporter from the Star Bulletin newspaper, many years ago. It still hurts, and still there is a stigma against the local people.
Read this book as it's good story of Honolulu and the timeline.

Audible please get someone who at least can pronounce the Hawaiian words. Nothing against this lady but it's hard to listen to someone through the whole book who can't even pronounce "Ewa" correctly.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Terrible mispronunciation = awful audiobook!

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Listening to this book was an exercise in torture. I quit after the first half having tried to give the book a fair listen. I give up!
I have never written a review for audible.com before, but was so turned off by awful narration performed by Ali Ahn, who did not take the time or effort to learn how to correctly pronounce common Hawaiian names and words. What disrespect!
It turned a very good story into an exercise of "wait, WHAT did she say?" moment, kind of like taking a lovely stroll in the historic section of Hawai'i and oh no, stepping in a pile of dog stuff! And it kept happening over and over again.
As reviewer "Jeffrey" wrote, Ahn's mangled Hawai'ian was very distracting throughout the entire novel and made me wonder who is to blame for allowing Audible to destroy an otherwise well-written story. History came alive and then was bombed to pieces every time Ahn opened her mouth to say "Ha-na-LU-u", "Awa", "WahiAwa" and other horrid approximations of common Hawai'ian places.
If you think that mispronouncing common Hawai'ian names and words is not disrespectful and lazy on the part of the narrator then I can refer you to some other ghastly examples produced by Audible which you will probably enjoy.
But "Honolulu" one was the worst by far!
I was thinking of listening to "Molokai'i" but am going to take a break from audible books for now. At least in print, I don't have to listen to someone like Ali Ahn ruin a good book!

Do you think Honolulu needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Just a new narrator!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A good read

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Another hit by Alan Brennert

This is my third book by Alan Brennert. I love how much detail that he putsinto his research. He is able to keep your interest from beginning to end. Spoiler alert, although there is hardship in each novel, there is always a happy ending.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best!

Alan Brennert never disappoints. It was very difficult to put this book away. I loved it so much I am sad it ended. Brennert is an outstanding writer and sets the scene so the reader feels like they are there. Brilliant and no words good enough to describe his talent.

The performance was wonderful and Ahn did a great job. Keeping me intrigued the entire time.

1 person found this helpful