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4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  16,988 Ratings  ·  1,984 Reviews
"Honolulu" is the richly imagined story of Jin, a young 'picture bride' who leaves her native Korea - where girls are so little valued that she is known as Regret - and journeys to Hawaii in 1914 in search of a better life. Instead of the prosperous young husband and the chance at an education she has been promised, Jin is quickly married off to a poor, embittered labourer ...more
Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published (first published 2009)
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Alan Matsumoto
Jan 27, 2009 Alan Matsumoto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good book but doesn't measure up to Molokai'. But what book does? I really enjoyed learning about the early 20th century Korean immigration as well as the history of Hawaii and it's city of Honolulu. I really liked how the author intertwined parts of true history into his book of fiction. Brennert has a way of transporting you to the island with his lush descriptions. You feel as if you are actually there. Or wish you were there. A solid book definitely worth reading.
I wasn't very impressed with Honolulu. The book's protagonist is a Korean "picture-bride" who finds herself in Oahu in the 1930s, and the book covers a period of time stretching from 1915 or so (in Korea) to just before WWII (thankfully Brennert didn't try to cover Pearl Harbor too).

The main problem I found was that Brennert simply tried to cover too much information, too many issues, and too many themes. It was utterly unbelievable that nearly every famous (or infamous) person in Honolulu durin
Jun 11, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars. Early twentieth century Hawaii comes to life in this descriptive historical novel depicting the life of Korean picture brides who migrated to Hawaii for a chance at a better life. While Moloka'i remains my favorite Alan Brennert novel, I was totally hooked on the life of Regret from start to finish, and the interesting character's (some real, some fictional) that she encounters in her struggles and injustices of everyday life; my favorite being the colorful prostitute May Thompson wit ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Mar 09, 2009 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Hawaiian Territorial history
The main character, named "Regret", is born in Korea in 1897. In 1912, she goes to Hawaii as a "picture bride",to be married immediately on arrival to a Korean man. As picture brides, these young girls were brought to Honolulu by false promises. When they faced the reality of their situation, they had to either make do as best they could or strike out on their own. Regret, now calling herself Jin, leaves the plantation and goes to Honolulu. There she uses her sewing skills to begin building a ne ...more
Mar 10, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was born in Hawaii and spent 18 fabulous months in Korea as a missionary. When perusing books at the library, I stumbled on this little gem and loved it from the start. While in Korea in the late 1980's, I wondered at the social rules of the day. Women walked behind their husbands, men 'owned' their wives and domestic abuse was high, women did not eat meals with their husbands, rather they remained in the kitchen, young adults in love could neither hold hands, nor kiss in public, girls covered ...more
Doug Bradshaw
May 25, 2012 Doug Bradshaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lot of research and effort went into this gem of a book and I wish I'd've realized before reading it that some of the stories were based on actual people and events. Most of it is historical fiction based on journals, books, newspaper articles and library archives. It tells the story of several Korean girls (brides) who were bought by Korean men living in Hawaii looking for wives. The descriptions of the life of Korean women in the late 1800's and early 1900's is pretty bleak. Basically, they ...more
“A road need not be paved in gold to find treasure at its end.”

Beautifully and tastefully written, Korea to Hawaii, “Honolulu” is the story of a young ‘picture bride’ immigrant who dared to rise above gender-oppression and culture restrictions that threatened to kill her educational aspirations and bind her expressive freedom.

“It is a journey measured not in time, or distance, but in the breadth of one’s soul and the struggle of becoming.”

A novel so atmospheric rich and tangibly descriptive I w
Jan 15, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Simply, it tried to do too much. This is not to say I hated it. I found myself laughing and in tears at some points (BTW, I also cry at Cotton commercials) but for the most part, I was kind of bored. To me, this was a weak attempt at matching Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" - a white male writing from the perspective of an Asian woman in a very different time. Where Golden succeeded and lured me into believing his work of fiction was more of an autobiography written by a Japanese geisha, B ...more
Nov 15, 2012 Kara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
My grandpa grew up on a plantation in Hawaii, so I grew up listening to stories of plantation life. I always found something thrilling in the idea of picture brides: it was so adventurous, so risky, and so often disappointing.

Men from Korea, Japan, China, and Okinawa went in droves to Hawaii in the early 20th century with promises paradise and the riches to be made there. Instead, they found themselves working under very difficult conditions for very little pay on plantations. They struck up a k
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 26, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Group Read Sept 2012
This is very well researched historical fiction. Rich in detail, full of fact-based events & colorful drama it tells the story of Korean ‘picture-brides’ immigrating to Hawaii. The low rating is strictly based on my failure to empathize with the main character Regret, at least for the 1st half of this book.
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Apr 15, 2017 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.
Regret, a young Korean girl, renamed herself "Jin" and travelled to Hawaii as a "picture bride" to escape a desolate existence back home. What she found awaiting her was a husband who misrepresented himself and his life and took his frustrations out on her. After a severe beating that cost her her unborn child, she left him to find a new life in Honolulu. There she meets a variety of people who help her reinvent her life and make her way in the world.
Interspersed in the telling of Ji
Jun 24, 2016 Lesley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the history and culture of this story!
Having loved the author's novel Moloka'i, I kept hesitating at reading this one, as I was ever so afraid that it wouldn't measure up to its predecessor. Well, I finally took the plunge and was richly rewarded for doing so. As with Moloka'i, I learned about a whole segment of history of which I was completely ignorant, always a reading thrill for me. The story of the picture brides from Korea (there were also picture brides from China and Japan), and in particular that of Jin (named Regret by her ...more
Mar 15, 2009 Kathy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am struggling with my review here - I really wanted to love this book, but I felt completely disconnected from it. In this story of a Korean "picture bride" who travels to Hawaii for opportunities that will never be available to her in Korea, Brennert seems to be trying to inject too many themes that it ultimately leaves me not really caring about the characters. There is the girl who leaves because she will never be more than an illiterate wife and daughter in law, the girl who must overcome ...more
Lisa Nelson
May 25, 2012 Lisa Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

Thoroughly enjoyable bit of historical fiction about mail-order-brides who immigrate to Oahu from Korea in the 1920's. James Mitchener's Hawaii continues to be one of my favorites and this book felt like some lost chapters. I love the aloha spirit, history and great storytelling that the author captured so well. Highly recommended. I'm excited to check out Molokai by the same author.
Mar 21, 2009 Rosalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a wonderful historical fiction depicting Honolulu from the turn of the century until around 1940. It truely opens your eyes about how the natives were treated by the white who came to their island.
Feb 18, 2009 Misfit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5) "...and together they make up a uniquely 'local" cuisine...and thus the author describes the cultural melting pot that is Hawaii. Wanting more out of life than what Korea can offer a young woman, Jin signs on as a "picture bride" (a sort of mail order bride) and sails off to Hawaii with several other young women - although they are in for quite a surprise at what is waiting for them at the docks - the pictures of the grooms are not all they were expecting from the photos. Jin thinks she ge ...more
Jacquie Ream
Dec 18, 2012 Jacquie Ream rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
During my recent visit to Hawaii, I read the 2009 award-winning book Honolulu by Alan Brennert. Two different friends recommended this book to me before I left for Hawaii; the day before my departure, my husband plunked the trade paperback down on my desk and said, “I think you’ll like this.”

Indeed, I did enjoy it. Honolulu is a fictionalized historic romantic tale of a Korean woman who comes to Honolulu in 1914 as a “picture bride” (equivalent of a mail-order bride) to escape her life as a seco
May 04, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! This was our May book club selection and they read Moloka'i a few years ago--before I was a member. To be honest I was not expecting much--I thought it was going to be a dull, dry book about the misfortunes of a single character. I couldn't see how I would sympathize with her, or how a man could accurately portray a woman dealing with the issues Jin would face. How wrong I was!

Brennert has a fantastic voice, reminding me of the only other man I've ever read who coul
Mar 04, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am torn between 3 stars and 4. It isn't what I would call great literature, but I did find it to be a very interesting story and an easy read. I really liked the way historical events and characters are inter-woven into this fictional story, but sometimes it reads a bit like a romance novel with the way loose ends seem to get tied up in a pleasing way. On the other hand, when you finish the book you will feel good. I have heard that Moloka'i is better, and am looking forward to reading it.
Lyn (Readinghearts)
May 31, 2009 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in learning about the culture of Asians who immigrated to Hawaii.
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: my sister
I would highly recommend this book, and the first Hawaii book by this author, titled Moloka'i. Both books helped to satisfy my hunger for books about the mix of cultures that make Hawaii unique. This fascination began in high school when I read James Michener's Hawai'i. Unlike that book, these books tell the story of Hawai'i through the eyes of everyday people who live in the less glamorous Hawai'i than the paradise most people are familiar with. The main character in this book is Jin, a Korean ...more
May 06, 2010 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really good book. I got so involved with it that it was hard to put it down.
Regret is the daughter of a Korean family and is unvalued because she is female. She is belittled constantly by her father and feels unwanted in her own home. When she expresses a desire to learn how to read and write, her father hits her telling her she needs to learn her place. However, due to an aunt in another town she is taught how to read by Evening Rose, a kissaen (a type of entertainer of men).
When the
Mar 26, 2009 Yolanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Relyn, Sharon , Shelby
Recommended to Yolanda by: pamela pickering
Shelves: 2012-read
I loved this book as I do everything by this author. He has a way of crafting a historical tale that stays with me long after I have read it.
He starts us out in Korea and takes us through the early years of the development of Hawaii and all the struggles this state went through to become what it is today.
You come to think of Jin as a kindred spirit and cheer for her and her family to succeed.
I encourage everyone to read this wonderfully crafted tale from a master of historical fiction.

3.5 stars

Much better than Molokai, but still not necessarily the most riveting book ever. I liked how the author wove in several pieces of real history, but the main character's (Jin) involvement in so much of it sometimes made her feel like the Forrest Gump of Honolulu -- she just happens to be in the midst of every major historical event of 20th century Hawaii!

If he comes out with another book, I'll consider it, but I won't race to buy it.
Jul 02, 2010 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved Alan Brennert's first book SO MUCH...."Moloka'i", that I didn't think it was possible that this book could be AS GOOD.....
but it was.
Honolulu & Molokai are both heavenly Historical Fiction novels -- page turners--I love to give these books as gifts. They are really special.
Paul Jr.
Dec 18, 2008 Paul Jr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of historical fiction, hawaiian history, and multi-faceted female protagonists
EDITED TO ADD: Just named one of the best novels of 2009 by The Washington Post. Well-deserved in my opinion.

Generally, historical fiction is not a genre I actively seek out unless the subject matter is something that intrigues me or about which I have a particular passion. My brief forays into historicals have led me to discover some amazing books and some which, regrettably, read like nothing more than the history textbooks I so despised when I was in school. I stumbled onto Alan Brennert thro
Elizabeth Sulzby
I picked this book up at Pages & Pages at the Honolulu airport and read it while on vacation. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this author set his protagonist "Regret" in to the early 20th century on O'ahu, including Waikiki and Honolulu. The period mostly focused on 1905-1920 but then skips ahead to the end our our heroine's life.

Regret is a young girl who longs to learn to read and write as her brothers are doing in Korea. She is told she cannot go to school and, now that she's getti
Jun 08, 2010 Kandice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. I'm glad I didn't get a chance to read Moloka'i first since so many people compare the two with Molaka'i always coming out on top. This one, all on it's own, was a lovely story. Brennert has a very "Amy Tan-ish" feel to his writing. I mean that as a high compliment.

Honolulu follows Jin from her very sad childhood in Korea, to Hawai'i, where she travels by ship as a "picture bride" only to find that the land of plenty and husband of wealth and integrity she was hoping
Apr 25, 2011 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying this is a good read. It wasn't at all what I expected with the title being "Honolulu" but it is good none the less. It's the story of a Korean woman named Regret, who later changes her name to Jin. Born into a Confucian household that put boys and men as honored parts society and girls and women seen as only wives destined to be no more than maids or breeders for male children. Jin feels the full effect of her father's disappointment and feelings toward her by his naming h ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's been a while since I've give a book 5 stars / absolutely loved a book, but I can safely say I feel this way about Honolulu. I have learned so much about WWI, The Great Depression, and about Hawaiian and Korean Cultures. All of the characters were very well developed, and this book feels so real life. Each chapter brings a new hardship and a new joy with it as well. As someone who has visited Hawaii multiple times and spent time on Oahu specifically it reminds me of my travels and of the tim ...more
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Alan Brennert is the author of the historical novels Palisades Park, Honolulu (chosen one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post), and Moloka'i, which won the 2006 Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the Book Club Book of the Year (and has sold over half a million copies since publication). He is also the author of the thought-provoking fantasy novel Time and Chance ...more
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“Quoting an old proverb: "An empty cart rattles loudly." she said. meaning, One who lacks substance boasts loudest.” 28 likes
“A road need not be paved in gold to find treasures at its end.” 7 likes
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