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Song of the Exile

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,337 ratings  ·  204 reviews
In this epic, original novel in which Hawaii's fierce, sweeping past springs to life, Kiana Davenport, author of the acclaimed Shark Dialogues, draws upon the remarkable stories of her people to create a timeless, passionate tale of love and survival, tragedy and triumph, survival and transcendence. In spellbinding, sensual prose, Song of the Exile follows the fortunes of ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 5th 2000 by Ballantine Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  1,337 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read - I may select it as my next book club pick. I had a hard time getting into it, but it ended up being a beautiful book. The story takes place in and out of Hawaii before, during, and after World War II and before statehood. Somehow it blends the horrors for women in WWII with stories about native Hawaiians - their early pidgen talk, tales passed down through generations, the human spirit, the power of women, and much, much more. Kiana Davenport's writ ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I gave this book 4.5 stars only because the first part (for me) dragged a little. It is a book about Hawaii and Hawaiians and what happened to the people when it became a territory of the US. It is like what happens to most people when a more powerful country takes over. It's about the years before, during and after WWII, music,New Orleans, Paris and Shanghai and the people and the prison camps in Asia and what happened to hundreds of thousands of girls and women in Asia. It is horrifying and as ...more
Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)
It's been awhile since I read Shark Dialogues, and I'd forgotten the sensual Hawaiian-ness in Davenport's writing style. Every one of the senses is wide awake and open to a deep experience of the physical world. ...more
Missy J
I have never heard of this author Kiana Davenport before. My book club brought her to my attention and when I found out that she is a hapa author (native Hawaiian mother and white father), I felt compelled to read one of her books. The book cover of Song of the Exile really caught my eye and I usually enjoy reading historical fictions.

But this was a long book and overly ambitious. I only liked the bits in the book that are set in Hawaii. The parts set in Paris and especially Shanghai are horribl
Laurie Hanan
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If anything, I loved this book even more than Shark Dialogues. It haunts me in a way I can't describe. The images it left me with will always be with me. The author, through interviews with World War II survivors, managed to grasp the abominations of war as well as anyone could. She hauntingly articulates the horrors war inflicts on both the conqueror and the conquered, and how the two are sometimes interchangeable.

The books opens with Sunny, held in the most horrific conditions imaginable, in a
Stephanie Fujii
Oct 08, 2012 rated it liked it
This book, at the core, was interesting. However, I felt that it was flawed in many ways, which ultimately took away from how much I enjoyed the experience of reading it.
1. Lots of great and intriguing historical information (Hawaii becoming a state, WWII, Hawaiian folklore and mythology, comfort women)
2. Some of the characters had interesting lives - mostly ones that didn't get near enough focus - but they were enjoyable to read for the most part

1. WAY WAY WAY too much desc
Nancy Ellis
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book to be read quickly. It is so beautifully written, you don't want to miss a word. The back cover describes her prose as "spellbinding" and "sensual" and that is entirely accurate. It is a haunting and powerful story covering aspects of Hawaiian and American history and culture, as well as the Pacific side of World War 2 full of horrors equal to the Holocaust on the European side. It's an amazing testament to the power of love and particularly the courage and strength of women. ...more
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most beautiful but difficult books to read.....her prose reads like poetry and the historical information contained in the plot is well researched and of my top 10 favorite books...
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Powerful read about interesting characters and meaning of home.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, book-club
There wasn't anything thing I liked about this book - it was for book club and I had to work to finish it - everyone else in my book club (of those who read the book) liked it very much. Just not for me. ...more
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing, well-researched, heart-rending history lesson of Hawai'i during WWII and up to statehood. I could not put it down, except to dry my eyes. I learned a lot about jazz, the strengths of the Hawaiian people, and the horrific treatment of women by the Japanese during the war. ...more
Martha Alami
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I rarely give a book 5 stars, but this book is not only a great literary work, but also brought to my attention a topic of which I was completely unaware. Until I read this book I did not know that hundreds of thousands of women were enslaved in prisons by the Japanese during World War II, tortured and murdered and that no one really has spoken of this until some of these women came forward in the 1990s. Additionally this book is an education in Hawaiian forklore, customs and traditions. Kiana D ...more
I read and remember enjoying Kiana Davenport's Shark Dialogues a couple years ago. It had a lot more magical realism, and so I went into this book with those expectations, but there wasn't much magic to speak of (though main character Pono from Shark Dialogues does play a small role in this book). Instead, this book is much more of a "standard" historical fiction romance, though very epic in scope— (view spoiler) ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I actually read this when it was first published but had not remembered until a few pages into it, but it was so good I decided to read it again.

It's a very poetic novel and she describes music better than any writer I've ever read. It's a good story with good characters and she possesses that amazing ability to take you to the place she writes about.

It's one of those beautiful novels you almost have to put down because the imagery and poetry is so intense it doesn't absorb you as much as it p
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A truly moving tale about the lives and tragedies surrounding WWII and the melting pot of pacific cultures called Hawaii.

The author explores relationships between men and women, duty and destiny in ways that are striking and unforgettable.

This is a portrait that I will never forget... Not an easy one to take in, but a powerful tale and a story that makes me a more empathetic and compassionate storyteller! Well done!
Lindsey Sandberg
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I am utterly, thoroughly gutted.
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
For the last several days I have been trying to pull all my thoughts and emotions together to tackle the review of this book. I haven’t been able to pick up the next book on my shelf, not quite ready to walk away from all that was sparked by the telling of this story. This story is harsh and gut-wrenching and based on a period of historic truth. That truth juxtaposed against the beautiful way it is written just really made me so mad at the world. Why are beautiful things destroyed? Why are simpl ...more
Susan Oleksiw
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Few stories deserve the title of "epic," but this one truly does. The reader begins following the Meahuna family but the characters sweep through Hawaii, the United States, and then Paris and the Pacific during World War II and into the 1950s. Keo finds his soul in the horn playing jazz, and his soul mate in Sunny, who makes it all the way to Paris in the unfolding of World War II, the two of them defying reality for the different life they find there. Life is brutal at any time for Keo and his ...more
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
This book was well-written, with a gripping plot, about the plight of two Hawaiian lovers before, during, and after WWII. The prose is almost lyrical. The boyfriend is a musical genius who made his name on the island playing jazz. He was so good he got the chance to play in New Orleans, and the Paris. Love story with music as background -- this is my type of book! I would have LOVED this novel if it had a good ending. But it had a ending that made me felt disappointed and full of questions. Acco ...more
Paula S. Moore
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly moving.

The book is about a Hawaiian family and what happens to Hawaii as it is taken over by the US government and moves toward statehood.

The main character is Keo who is a trumpeter who loves jazz and constantly builds up his abilities to play until he’s a really great jazz musician.

The love of his life is Sonny. She is a half Hawaiian, half Korean woman who has many family issues that she is determined to fix.

The story includes their lives as they together and then individually mov
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
It was hard for me to put down this book. I lived for many years in Hawaii and I longed to listen to the language for as long as possible. The book is, as described, poetic - to a fault. I got tired of the pattern of short not quite complete sentences. The book is, yes, about war, and imho, unnecessarily morbid, even so. And, it's just too drawn out. I was so relieved when we finally caught up to Sunny, whom we hadn't heard from in awhile, and it was 1945 - only to be sent back in time to Keo a ...more
Lisa Perkowski
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love all of Davenport's books. This one, as all the others, was haunting in it's story of lovers who seem destined for each other, but also destined to suffer for a ach other as well. The horrors of Japanese prison camps during WWII leave you gasping and wondering how anyone came out alive, and the stark atrocities she recounts that were inflicted on the kidnapped "comfort" women, would make any reader want to rail at the way they were forgotten and dismissed once "liberated". Davenport's book ...more
Nov 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This is an intense book in every way: the poetic writing style, the passionate characters and relationships, the plot and historical backdrop. Not a beach read or fun escape (though it does make any hardships you're experiencing in your own life seem trivial). Some WW2 books focus on a small bit of hope and human dignity in the midst of the darkness.... this book plunges headfirst into the darkness. Those stories should be told, and Davenport gives voice to some lesser known viewpoints. I apprec ...more
Oof...I did like the focus on some lesser-known history, but so much of this book revolved around women reliant upon men or having little to do apart from the men in their lives. There were also a few points of homophobia that didn't sit well even in spite of the context.

I am also split on the audio. For a white woman, the reader Gabrielle de Cuir does an OK job with the Hawaiian and pidgin, but the production quality is pretty shaky and there are reeeeeally corny and distracting music patches t
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book is set during World War II and is set in Hawaii, France, China, and the mainland US. As with Kiana Davenport's other novel, I learned a lot, this time about the horrors of WW2, especially for women in a camp for prisoners of war. Usually when I think about a book with great writing, I think of beautiful imagery. This book has great writing, but describing such horrific things, that it was sometimes hard to read. There were lovely parts and I especially loved how the stories came togeth ...more
Kathleen Lifka
Apr 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Hidden Story of The Hawai'ian people

This was a difficult book to read because of the events over which the characters had no control. I was also difficult to go between Hawaii and the prisoners in Japan. Having experienced Hawaii as a tourist, I feel for their loss of identity, and I support those who are trying to bring back the life and stories of the past. Is difficult as it was to read, I very likely will go back and read this book again. Prayers for all those who suffered through World
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This was one of the most intense historical fiction books I've ever read. I had never heard of the "comfort girls" in the Pacific during WWII and was horrified to hear of their plight. The writing was lyrical and beautiful and I found that I took much longer to read this simply to delight in the words. I always FEEL Hawaii in Davenport's writing and I think that's a true gift as well as an honor to her homeland. ...more
Eileen Briesch
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Song” tops my chart

I really loved this book. The author drew colorful pictures of her settings on Hawaii, and in New Orleans, Paris and Shanghai as Keo and Sunny fought to stay alive and together before World War II. Her characters were drawn in bold strokes too. I felt I knew these people personally as I read through the book, knew how they would react. I definitely will try to read other books by Kiana Davenport because I found her style so appealing.
Tomungo X
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enlightening, as to what these women endured in WW11. However, the writing can be very cumbersome in it description, to the point of getting lost as to the point. I found the story so very sad, it hung with me like a cloak. I think the story needs to be told, but be prepared to be deeply affected.
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KIANA DAVENPORT is descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother, and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama. Her father, Braxton Bragg Davenport, was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when he fell in love with her mother, Emma Kealoha Awaawa Kanoho Houghtailing. On her mother's side, Kiana traces her ancestry back to the first Polynesian settlers to the Hawaiian Isl ...more

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