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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hawaii Revisited

Thirty or so odd years ago, I spend two gloriously relaxing weeks in Hawai'i. We rented a condo on Oahu twenty stories above Waikiki Beach--the view was stunningly amazing from its balcony, where doves joined us each morning for breakfast, softly cooing as they perched on the railings. I spent long, luxurious hours on the powder-sand beach and, in the evenings, sipped pineapple juice laced with gin listening to the gentle lilts of music unique to the Island Paradise.

During my stay, I learned a bit about Hawai’ian history and culture, but I was, at the time, more interested in the touristy attractions and obtaining an enviously rich, deep, dark tan. It wasn't until this summer, these many odd years later, in reading Aloha, Mozart ** by Waimea Williams, that I learned there is so much more behind and beneath the beauty and lulling sea breezes.

Williams stunning novel is just about to be released this month, but I the opportunity to read an advanced review copy graciously provided by the editors of AuthorsExposure.com. Here is my review:

What if you had a great singing talent and, after years of hardship and grueling training, you had the opportunity to achieve international fame and fortune? What if you had to compromise your integrity and moral conscience to become a star? Would you?

This is the dilemma of Maile Manoa, the heroine of a sweet historical novel set in the 1960s: Aloha, Mozart by Waimea Williams. An impoverished native-born Hawai’ian of mixed heritage, Maile is gifted with a full-range contralto singing voice that is conducive to any musical genre. But when, in sixth grade, she hears a recording of Aida by Giuseppe Verdi, she realizes she was meant to sing opera—virtually unheard of in her home. She sings for a living at weddings, church functions, on a radio show, and in a Honolulu hotel—secretly squirreling away part of her earnings. When she is “discovered” by an international diva on tour, Maile studies under Madame Renska in New York,  then continues her training in Salzburg during a time of tense Austrian political unrest and turmoil. There, Maile finds love and betrayal with a fellow student, corruption in diplomatic circles, and deeply rooted Nazism underscoring the world of classical music. When she is offered a starring role by a world-renown conductor with a nefarious past, she is forced to choose between her “me, me, me” diva’s desire for recognition and her own innate moral convictions.

This was a really pleasurably eye-opening read, especially since I am partial to Mozart and fascinated by opera. Williams, a native Hawai’ian, brings to her debut novel a first-hand knowledge of the history and culture not only of her home, but that of Austria and Germany, where she sang opera for ten years. A talent, accomplished writer, she graces her story with lilting phrases—“…caught in their own history like bugs in amber.”— and stunning word chords that musically captivate the reader’s imagination. Reading Aloha, Mozart is like listening to a symphony by Mozart, so lightly flowing and delicately intricate are the author’s prose, plotlines, scene descriptions, protagonist development, and character interactions. However, the basic plot punches more like an opera by Wagner.

However, while this is a sweetly sinuous read, it is not sugar-coated. The author pulls no punches when relating the harsh realities of Hawai’ian native life; Soviet tanks at the Austrian border; the staunch strictness of Salzburg police; and the corruption, betrayal, and stark cynicism underpinning what seems at face value to be the glamorous world of classical music. She is straightforward and brutally frank about each of her characters, especially Maile, whom I cheered for in the beginning, was concerned about in the middle, and almost angrily chided at the end. Well, almost.

This medium-length, 275-page novel transports the reader across three continents and two oceans, immersing one’s imagination in the myriad intricate nuances of two cultures that are bridged together through Maile’s great talents and her sometimes misguided ambition.

Aloha, Mozart is great literary fiction; a book that should be well noted and added to everyone’s reading repertoire.
**© Wiamea Williams 2012. 275-pgs, ppbk. Luminis Books, Carmel, IN.
12:21 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,