"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii by Bodie Thoene

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Summary: The story of Princess Kaiulani and her life in England is uncovered by a researcher in Hawaii.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher.

Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The island maid, the island rose,
Light of heart and bright of face:
The daughter of a double race.

Her islands here, in Southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.

But our Scots islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by
To smile in Kaiulani's eye.

- Robert Louis Stevenson written to Princess Kaiulani to mark her journey to Britain.

Love finds you in Lahaina, Hawaii is a dual story. Set in 1973, Sandi Smith is a researcher sent to Hawaii to record and uncover local oral history. Sandi is also worried about news of her husband John, a POW still missing in Vietnam. She is welcomed to Lahaina, Maui, and the scenes set with the locals could only have been written by someone who knows and loves Hawaii’s unique hospitality rules. The immediate intimacy, the lack of privacy, cheerful friendliness and oh, the smell of flowers carried by the warm wind made me instantly homesick for Hawaii. Sandi is sent to speak with Auntie Hannah, who was the companion of Princess Kaiulani.

Here’s where it gets interesting for me. Princess Kaiulani was the next royal in line for the Hawaiian monarchy when it was overthrown by American business interests in 1893. Yes, you heard me. The American government allowed the house arrest of a Hawaiian queen, Kaiulani’s aunt, Queen Liliuokalani. All children in Hawaii learn about Princess Kaiulani, but this was a deeper look into her life while she was abroad.

Kaiulani’s father, Scotsman Archibald Scott Cleghorn married Princess Likelike, the sister of King David Kal√Ękaua and Princess Lili'uokalani. Princess Ka'iulani (pronounced kah-ee-oo-lah-knee) was sent away to Britain partly to groom her for the monarchy, and likely to protect her from the violence starting to erupt against native Hawaiians.

Kaiulani first meets aspiring journalist Andrew Adams aboard the ship taking them to England, where he mistakes her for her companion Hannah Duncan. Unknowingly, Andrew refers to Kaiulani as the “barbarian princess” and to pass the voyage and for petty revenge, she and Hannah trade roles for the journey. Andrew is humiliated and angry when he discovers their deception. Kaiulani doesn’t expect to see him again but their paths cross many times in England.

Kaiulani grows into a regal, often haughty princess, turning down the multiple offers of marriage because she knows that she cannot marry for love, but must most likely make a marriage of state to secure Hawaii’s interests. Kaiulani is a curiosity to the British who are fascinated by her dark skin and mysterious beauty and yet refer to her as a savage. (I imagine she experienced a little of what Pocahontas might have encountered.) But Kaiulani is NOT a barbarian, in fact she’s deeply religious, having been raised as a Christian from birth. Many Hawaiians, who struggled when missionaries led the ban on the hula and native dress, nevertheless embraced Christianity and were happily Christian living under a Hawaiian monarch.

Kaiulani and Andrew meet again at a religious revival in England. Funnily enough, Hannah again posed as Kaiulani, so Kaiulani could attend the revival. Andrew and Kaiulani renew their friendship and are separated once again, and know they cannot marry. Andrew covers the chaos of Hawaii following the death of King David Kalakaua and the forced abdication of Queen Liliuokalani. Kaiulani embarks on a PR campaign to win the hearts of the American people, but was ridiculed and mocked by the American press. You know by now that Hawaii was annexed to the United States and is the 50th state, so Kaiulani’s efforts were in vain.

Ka'iulani had returned to Honolulu later, at age 23, a deposed princess. It was said she died of a broken heart, though typhoid was blamed as the cause.

This book really is Kailuani’s story, but the character of Sandi Smith allows the story to unfold in a way that makes sense given the style of the book. Sandi did not seem to me to be a fully-fleshed out character, but how can anyone hold a candle to the vibrant personality of a real Hawaiian princess?

My primary concern about the romance between Kaiulani and Andrew is a nit-picky one, as Kaiulani was only 13 when she left Hawaii for England.

I won’t ruin the love story for you, but it is a tender one. I will also share that both Kaiulani and Sandi Smith find love, or love finds them in Lahaina.

There is an entire series of books that start with "Love Finds You in ---, ---." I can't wait to read whatever book is also set in Minnesota.

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