Kelly's Reviews > Honolulu

Honolulu by Alan Brennert
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's review
Mar 10, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2009

Brennert's real magic in writing is following the life of an individual living through history -- the ups, the downs, the exciting, and the mundane. In "Honolulu," Brennert depicts the life of Jin, who leaves her life and traditional family structure in Korea to become a picture bride in Hawaii, which she and her fellow picture brides believe is a place covered in golden streets and magic.

"Honolulu" is a lot like a large flower. You peel away each petal and watch as Jin grows and learns through her choices and her environmental changes (both decided for and decided by her). Beside the historical moments she experiences, we watch as she navigates the terrain of remaining loyal to her heritage and discovering what it means to be American. This is a book of layers.

Brennert did incredible research for the book, and it shows. I'm amazed at how well he captures detail and how well he depicts the historical moments without making them trite or overwritten. I think his timing in this novel is a bit off, though, because of this. He wants to move on to new ideas and new issues but sometimes leaves older ones too quickly. Within a couple of lines, years may go by without any in between action. In "Moloka'i," this was better and the time transitions were smoother and more fluid.

Parts of the book dragged and others I could not read fast enough, and that's the entire point. It's a story of a person, through and through.

While I really liked this one, I think I liked "Moloka'i" better because the plot was a little smoother, the timing better, and the story line a little more interesting for me (perhaps because it was something I literally knew nothing about). Fans of "Moloka'i" would like this one, as would anyone with an interest in American historical fiction in the early 20th century, identity, culture, and those who love good writing. The prose is undeniably solid and beautiful.

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Reading Progress

04/07/2009 page 25
04/08/2009 page 50
13.89% "Brennert can WRITE. wow, wow, wow. I might like this better than Moloka'i."
04/10/2009 page 150
41.67% "Lovely, but slow. One you really get to enjoy bone deep."
04/14/2009 page 200
55.56% "I am going to try to finish this today. The middle's dragging."
04/14/2009 page 250
69.44% "like pulling the petals off one by one."

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