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Honolulu Paperback – February 2, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 652 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brennert's mostly successful follow-up to his book club phenomenon, Moloka'i, chronicles the lives of Asian immigrants in and around Hawaii's early 20th-century glamour days. As the tale begins, readers meet young Regret, whose name speaks volumes of her value in turn-of-the-20th-century Korea. Emboldened by her desire to be educated, Regret commits herself as a mail-order bride to a prosperous man in Hawaii, where girls are allowed to attend school. But when she arrives, she finds her new husband is a callous plantation worker with drinking and gambling problems. Soon, Regret (now known as Jin) and her fellow picture brides must discover their own ways to prosper in America and find that camaraderie and faith in themselves goes a long way. Brennert takes perhaps too much care in creating an encyclopedic portrait of Hawaii in the early 1900s, festooning the central narrative with trivia and cultural minutiae by the boatload. Luckily, Jin's story should be strong enough to pull readers through the clutter. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Virtually the only way for a young girl such as Jin to escape the poverty, isolation, and desperation of Korea in the early twentieth century was to advertise herself as a “picture bride,” eagerly available for marriage to a presumably young, honorable fellow countryman who had already fled to the burgeoning island paradise of Hawaii. Possessed of an insatiable desire for education and an innocent sense of adventure, Jin accepts Noh’s offer, only to realize that she’s traded one form of oppression for another when she suffers physical attacks from an alcoholic husband and the psychological abuse of a chauvinistic society. Spanning more than four decades, Jin’s plaintive yet intrepid tale of spirited courage and staunch resolve is as audacious as that of the vibrant island nation whose own polyglot heritage becomes increasingly endangered as it transitions from U.S. territory to fiftieth state. Brennert’s lush tale of ambition, sacrifice, and survival is immense in its dramatic scope yet intimate in its emotive detail. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 Reprint edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312606346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312606343
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (652 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tamela Mccann VINE VOICE on March 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Born in Korea in 1897, only daughter Regret learns from an early age what she can expect from life: servitude, enforced submission, and being "sold" to the highest bidder so she can move on to yet another household where the same existence will continue. Feeling certain there must be more to life than these grim prospects, Regret seeks an education and is aided in her quest by a kindly aunt. But a little education only makes Regret seek more, and when her father denies her any opportunity to become more than chattel, teenaged Regret decides to become a "picture bride" for a Korean man living in Hawai'i. Instantly shunned by her father, she boards a ship along with other young Korean women searching for more than what life in their native land will offer.

Honolulu weaves the true tales of life on Oahu in the early part of the twentieth century with Regret's new life as an unfortunately abused young bride. Regret (who renames herself Jin) is a fiercely independent, strong young woman who constantly strives to better her circumstances; she leaves her abusive husband, despite her careful Korean training to always submit, and uses her seamstress skills to earn some money. As with all lives, Jin's has its moments of love and loss; Brennert allows Jin to tell us of her woes, dreams, triumphs, and ideas herself, and he does an excellent job of using her voice to show how oppressed the working poor actually were on this island paradise. Brennert also peoples this novel with colorful characters as well as real people, and Jin often finds herself at or near the center of some of the gravest situations of the times.

Brennert's research is impeccable and this is a book that will pull you in from the first.
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A Kid's Review on February 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Alan Brennert's second novel, "Honolulu," continues to provide an entertaining history of the Hawaiian Islands, following his successful first novel, "Moloka'i." While "Moloka'i" had the entire plot line of the leper colony to fascinate readers, "Honolulu" surprises by focusing on the experiences of a Korean picture bride, named by her family, Regret.

Regret's childhood days in Korea and her relationship with a courtesan, who teaches her to read, are key to her character's desire to escape the drudgery of servitude expected of Korean girls.

Once she lands in Hawaii, she finds the streets are not paved with gold. She meets her new husband, endures horrors, and hardships, and continues undaunted to follow her dreams. She begins to use the name Jin.

Jin runs into a wide cast of real-life historical characters, but Brennert weaves them into his plot with emotion, and the reader comes away feeling enlightened as well as moved by the experiences. Hawaii, ever the land of immigrants, has not always been kind to newcomers. The strength of the locals, the growth of the "haole" thinking, and the ever-industrious spirit of the newcomers weave a charming, if sometimes overly expository, tale.

There are memorable lines throughout. My favorite is Jin's mother's explanation of grief: (Speaking of a quilt with black rectangles) "I added these on the day my mother died. . . There is no pattern to where I placed them, as there is no sense to be made of death. . .next to them the blues look bluer, the reds richer, the golds more brilliant. Withoutthem the cloth is pretty, but without character or contrast." Wisdom entwined in colorful language adds another reason to read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I can sum it up very quickly: This is a great book.

I am always impressed when a male writer tells a story from a female point of view and makes it work. In "Honolulu", Alan Brennart has done his considerable research proud, and woven a fictional story in with historical events to create a seamless, very readable tale of a Korean woman of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and her many family connections, both by blood and friendship.

Jin is a dutiful child of an upper-middle-class Korean family in a small city, who enters the world as an unwanted daughter named "Regret" (because she wasn't a son). Bright and inquisitive by nature, she longs to go to school like her brothers, but to do so would bring shame on her family. By subterfuge and her sympathizing aunt's aid, she finds someone who teaches her how to read; but when her father learns of it, the result is not what Jin had hoped for. She languishes, frustrated, within the confines of her family's home, with only a young sister-in-law-in-training for company.

Her bid to break free comes when she learns of the "picture brides", essentially mail-order brides for Korean men in Hawaii. She overcomes her family's strenuous objections to her desire to become a "picture bride", and embarks upon her greatest adventure, in the company of four other Korean girls.

This is a book that was difficult to put down, as I travelled with Jin through the Hawaii of early non-Hawaiian occupation. The governing of the Hawaiian nation had been connived away from the Hawaiian royal family not many years before; the power was in the hands of a handful of white overlords and the sugar- and pineapple-companies, the labour provided by immigrant, primarily Asian, laborers.
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