A well-written historical novel can so mesmerize readers that they come to feel they understand what it was like to live in a past era, as if they have truly experienced the sights, smells and cultures of a time and place beyond their personal knowledge. In Honolulu
, author Alan Brennert succeeds brilliantly in this goal.
At first, the plot of Honolulu
may seem overly familiar. Readers have encountered protagonists in similar circumstances on the pages of many recent bestselling novels (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
, Memoirs of a Geisha
, the works of Amy Tan). Even after the main character reaches Hawaii, much of the plot is predictable. Brennert's writing, however, is so compelling that readers soon find they are unable to put the book down. Fortunately, its story departs from the expected after the first five chapters or so, after which...
Beyond the Book
Korean Picture Brides
Korea became the object of Japan's colonial ambitions in the late nineteenth century, culminating in Japan's annexation of the region in 1910. Koreans, escaping the abuse and heavy taxation imposed by the Japanese, began immigrating to Hawaii. Approximately 6000 migrated to the islands between 1906 and 1910, 90% of whom were male. Most ended up as laborers on sugarcane plantations. The Japanese government prohibited emigration to Hawaii starting in 1910, but provided an exception for relatives of those already living in Hawaii.
A shortage of marriageable women, combined with the loophole in Japan's immigration laws, allowed for the rise of the "picture bride." A Korean man in Hawaii would provide a photograph of himself to a...