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Honolulu

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4.06  ·  Rating details ·  21,785 ratings  ·  2,380 reviews
The story of a young immigrant bride in a ramshackle town that becomes a great modern city

"In Korea in those days, newborn girls were not deemed important enough to be graced with formal names, but were instead given nicknames, which often reflected the parents; feelings on the birth of a daughter: I knew a girl named Anger, and another called Pity. As for me, my parents n
...more
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2009)
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Chris Fuerth I wouldn't recommend it for a class - there is at least one vivid description of a prostitute's night that would land you in hot water! However, I thi…moreI wouldn't recommend it for a class - there is at least one vivid description of a prostitute's night that would land you in hot water! However, I think there is so much to learn from this book that I'd certainly recommend it for my own teenage child.(less)
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Best Historical Fiction
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  21,785 ratings  ·  2,380 reviews


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Alan Matsumoto
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Update...
I read this years ago. It’s such a terrific story. I still remember the characters and situations. It’s a Kindle special $1.99 today....
for those looking for a very engaging historic novel.


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.
...more
Christina
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
...more
[Shai] Bibliophage
From the beginning till the end, this book will surely captivate any readers by heart. It is filled with stories on how women live during the early 19th century and how they were to able to cope with every struggle they've encountered. If you like reading stories about women empowerment, then you must not miss adding this book to your to-read list. ...more
Richard Derus
Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: “In Korea in those days, newborn girls were not deemed important enough to be graced with formal names, but were instead given nicknames, which often reflected the parents’ feelings on the birth of a daughter: I knew a girl named Anger, and another called Pity. As for me, my parents named me Regret.”

Honolulu is the rich, unforgettable story of a young “picture bride” who journeys to Hawai'i in 1914 in search of a better life.

Instead of the affluent young hus
...more
Kat
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-2
Man, Alan Brennert has some gorgeous prose. I loved his first novel, Molokai, for its touching and painful look at the life of a young girl banished to a remote Hawaiian island after coming down with leprosy. And this tale of Jin, a Korean girl who travels to Honolulu as a picture bride to escape a life of occupation by the Japanese and one where she will only ever cook and clean house, first for her father, then under her mother-in-law’s thumb. Her struggles and depiction of this strange new me ...more
Carol
Jun 11, 2012 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
Julie
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Connie G
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Regret is a young Korean woman named for the disappointment of her parents because she was a female baby. She felt repressed by traditional Korean society in the early 20th Century. Regret secretly learned to read and wanted to obtain an education. She hoped the situation would be better if she signed up to be a "picture bride" of a man living in Hawaii. Her husband, a violent plantation worker with gambling and alcohol problems, was not what she expected. She renamed herself Jin, and traveled t ...more
Jennifer
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Doug Bradshaw
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Diane S ☔
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not quite as heart rendering as Molokai but very good all the same. Starts in Korea with Jin raised in an old school household, she wants and education more than anything but girls are not valued for their book smarts. She signs on to be a picture bride and end up in Honolulu. What follows is a very good story with plenty of the history as she arrives when American businessman have already deposed the last Hawaiian monarch, though not in the peoples minds. Well written and interesting, Brennert ...more
Myrna
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Brennert’s book has a lot going for it...brave characters, interesting relationships, and a Hawaiian history lesson along with a few twists here and there. All this makes for a good historical fiction read. In my opinion, the book got a bit tedious at points but a great story nonetheless. I recommend this novel if this is your genre. 3.75 stars rounded up to 4!
Kara
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 26, 2012 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.
(view spoiler)
...more
Lynn
Apr 15, 2017 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
...more
Kathy
Mar 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Kathy
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
Lesley
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved the history and culture of this story!
Ashley Marie
After two books, I can easily say I'm a fan of Alan Brennert's work. He has the ability to weave a story that spans years and years, and he makes you forget he's a white author in his attention to detail and clear love of the Hawaiian islands. ...more
Peggy
I really enjoyed this story of a Korean picture bride making a life for herself in Hawai'i. I don't know much about Hawai'i and this story incorporates real people and real events, so it has been a very interesting read as well. ...more
Kathryn in FL
Though I have read approximately 1500 books since this was released, I do remember this book very positively and wanted more! Another reviewer compares this story's telling as similar to something Amy Tan would publish and I wholeheartedly agree! I say this despite the fact that I really cringe when publisher's use comparisons to sell subpar books (in my opinion) so I seldom make such comparisons.

I will say, don't expect this to be as good as Brennert's more recent works "Moloka'i" or "Daughter
...more
Lisa
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
...more
Rosalie
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Liza Fireman
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I like Alan Brennert's writing. I liked Moloka'i in the past (even better than this one), and now this one. Historical fiction at its best.

Life in Korea are not simple, and several girls decide to become picture-brides, marry Korean men that relocated to Hawaii. “You know how hard life can be in Korea,” she told us, “so it should come as no surprise when I tell you that some fifteen hundred Korean gentlemen are today living in a place called Hawai’i—a lush and fertile group of islands in the mid
...more
Misfit
Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it
(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 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Stephanie
May 04, 2010 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
...more
Julie
Jun 24, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a quick read, despite being longer than 400 pages. It is historical fiction, filled with interesting little details about Korean and Hawaiian life from roughly 1915-1957, and the reader gets a good fill of the "mixed plate" (author's description) that Honolulu was and is. My personal struggle with this book was the author's inability to create any multi-dimensional characters. I felt the characters were "representatives of type" rather than anything you could sink your teeth into. Also, ...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 600,000 copies since publication). It was also a 2012 One Book, One San Diego selection. He has won an Emmy Award and ...more

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