Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai'i by Linda Ballou

BallouWai-naniWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Christine Padovan

Publisher: Linda Ballou (2015)

Length: 9 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in the late 1700s, Wai-nani is the daughter of a great Hawaiian chieftain. However, she finds that she can’t live by his rules and swims away to another island. On her journey, she meets people from other Hawaiian tribes, lives through wind and wave, and eventually meets some of the first Caucasians to visit the islands. Along the way, she is accompanied by her friend the dolphin Eku.

I really wanted to like this book. I set into it wanting to sink in and soak up some Hawaiian history via this historical fiction. However, I often found myself a bit lost. Now part of that is me. I am woefully ignorant about both the history and myths of the Hawaiian peoples and the Hawaiian language. Throughout Wai-nani’s story, there are tales of the ancient Hawaiian gods woven in. Quite frankly, I would sometimes lose track of the characters, the names being so unfamiliar to me, and I would then lose track of whether or not I was was listening to events happening in Wai-nani’s present or a tale of old (of ancient gods or ancient warriors) being told to or by Wai-nani.  Secondly, there are several Hawaiian words used throughout the book (and normally I revel in this sort of thing) but the sounds are so unfamiliar to me that I had trouble keeping track of what was meant by which word… and Ooops! sometimes I confused a Hawaiian noun with a person’s name and vice versa. So, certain chunks of the plot were somewhat of a muddle to me.

So I would say that if you are as ignorant of the Hawaiian language and myths as I am, this might not be the book to start your education with. Also, I think it might be best to eyeball read it instead of listening to it as you could make note of the Hawaiian words (or hopefully the author included an small dictionary in the ebook/paper versions) and the grammar alone will clue you into whether it is a person’s name or vocabulary.

I did enjoy that Wai-nani had such an active life! She was very physically active, surfing and swimming and hiking much of the time. She often risked much voicing her opinion to chiefs concerning the traditional taboos against women doing this or that (like eating bananas). I would have enjoyed having other female characters doing the same instead of Wai-nani being the odd woman out most of the time.

Then Captain Cook and his ships come sailing in. This was initially a little confusing to me as well, and it’s because Cpt. Cook has a unique name in Hawaiian that is used primarily. However, I did like that it was more of a side note towards the end of Wai-nani’s life instead of some big climax to her life. The book does do a good job of showing that the Hawaiian peoples had full eventful lives and cultures of their own before Caucasians showed up.

I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks!

The Narration: Christine Padovan was an adequate narrator. She pronounced the Hawaiian words consistently through the book. I can’t speak to the accuracy of pronunciation because I am unfamiliar with the language. However, she had a somewhat stilted voice. I have listened to one other book narrated by Padovan (a SF story) and I thought she had added the stilt on purpose to reflect the fact that most of the characters learned from a computer, giving them all a kind of geek accent. Yet here I hear her doing the same thing throughout the book and it doesn’t work here.

What I Liked: Very active female lead character; a very foreign culture to me; Eku the dolphin!; the Caucasians are a footnote, not the main event.

What I Disliked: I was often lost due to so many Hawaiian words & names sounding similar to me; I would have enjoyed a few more strong female characters.

8 thoughts on “Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai'i by Linda Ballou”

  1. Thank you for such a well thought out and extensive review of Wai-nani. In the print book I have a glossary of the Hawaiian words used in text to help readers. You might enjoy viewing the videos I created on youtube answering the most common questions I receive about the Hawaiian culture and the story in general. Mahalo (thank you) for posting your review. Linda Ballou

    1. Thanks for stopping by the blog, even though I didn’t fall in love with this book. I really wanted to, truly. I thought I would be fascinated with it.

  2. The biggest reason in not using a more modern day, conversational style like I do in the contemporary romances that I voice is two-fold. Trying to hide my normal New Jersey inflection and speak more like an Old World personage. And trying to bring across the reverence that Hawaiian people had for their culture and way of life.

    Listeners need to consider that narrators are being given direction by the publisher/author for certain productions, and regardless of that, a narrator’s style choice or direction for narrating will not fit everyone, especially for such a wonderfully detailed, poetically written story such as Wai-nani.

    In the near future, Wai-nani will be Whispersync’ed – where a listener can purchase the audio and Kindle version for a reduced price, so they can follow along listening and reading the story at the same time. It will make the storytelling experience more understandable and enjoyable.

  3. Glad I read your review before I listened to review it myself. I also received a copy of the audiobook from the author in exchange for a fair review. Right now it is working its way to the top of my TBL list. When it comes up for review I will now have some idea of what to expect.

    1. I will be very interested to see what you think of it. Maybe it was just me. I hope it was just me. Normally I love these all-enveloping historical fictions (Ken Follett, Edward Rutherford, Diana Gabaldon, etc.).

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