Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: Honolulu

Honolulu, Alan Brennert 
Historical Fiction, E-book

So close. This book came SO close to being my first favourite book of the year. A week ago, I was all ready to rave about it here. Then I kept reading and it turned into Forrest Gump Does Hawaii. It recovered in the last few chapters but I just wasn't as into it anymore.

Honolulu takes place in Hawaii during the period between 1915 and the mid 1930s. Jin arrives there as a teenage "picture bride" hoping to get an education, something forbidden to girls in Korea at the time. The novel follows her new life and also chronicles a changing Honolulu. DH and I honeymooned in Hawaii and it holds a very special place in my heart, which is partly what drew me to this book. That, and I love me some good historical fiction.

The first two thirds of the book were really good. I liked Jin and could relate to her. I was rooting for her to be successful. The story moved along well and the Hawaiian history was interesting, too. When the focus shifted away from Jin in the last third, the book got too bogged down in history and started to lose me. At times, it felt like the author was trying to check off a bunch of important people and events from a history text book. It was hard to believe that Jin would just happen to meet all of these people and be so involved with all of these events. I mean, minor spoiler alert, she even invents the Hawaiian shirt. Really?! Jin also seemed to become a self-righteous know-it-all toward her friends during this part of the book, which was a turn off. 

While I was looking up some of the historical details, I learned that Brennert initially wrote a miniseries that was never picked up. He turned that into Moloka'i, a novel, in order to make sure that his work would be seen. He still had a lot of material left and that became Honolulu. Knowing that made my issues with the book make sense. Brennert is a good writer and I still really enjoyed this, but all that research got in the way.

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