Features Classical music theme gives novel its melody By Ruth Bingham Nov. 3, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. "Aloha, Mozart," by Waimea Williams (Luminis Books, $26.96; also in paperback and e-book) Like her heroine in "Aloha, Mozart," author Waimea Williams was raised in Hawaii, studied classical voice, and spent a decade in Austria and Germany launching her performing career. Even their names are similar: heroine Maile Manoa’s initials (MM) are an inversion of Williams’s (WW). "Aloha, Mozart" is a light, entertaining read, a romanticized retelling of Williams’ personal experience, and her descriptions of performing in New York and Austria give realistic detail. She packs that framework with ancillary themes from history to add mid-20th-century color: America as a provincial backwater to Europe’s cultural center, the Nazi legacy in Europe, the Prague Spring. She gives her characters evocative names: Rosenkavalier (of the Strauss opera) for the mysterious spy; Metzger ("butcher" or "murderer") for her landlady; Holzer ("wood gatherer") for her love interest; and most prominently, "von Wehlen" (an alternate spelling of "to choose" or "select") for the imperious conductor who has the power to make or break singers’ careers. Both the name "von Wehlen" and the character are thinly disguised stand-ins for the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan. Williams tells the story in third person, but from her own point of view, so that readers see the world once-removed through her eyes. As the protagonist, Maile Manoa faces remarkably few challenges. She has few vocal struggles, bad days or setbacks. Poverty rests lightly upon her, and she is able to afford striking clothes and a large apartment, yet still have enough to eat. She suffers almost no culture shock, and her Hawaiian ancestry (her ancestors were ruling chiefs) apparently elicits no racial tension. In fact, her darker coloring is an exotic plus that sets her apart, and virtually every male character wants to bed her. Maile seems to float, in the style of a romantic novel, above struggles that fell most of us. The rest of the characters revolve around Maile, not as individuals, but as they relate to her and are involved in her story. Maile has no real competition or close friends who take on lives of their own. She does, however, have a love interest, Karl, a talented pianist, farm boy, Prague Spring supporter and rebel, who pressures Maile not to "sell out" to the Nazi sympathizers (von Wehlen) who command the classical music scene. A gentle pastime, "Aloha, Mozart" leaves readers wondering about Williams’ real experiences as a singer from Hawaii in Austria. Previous Story Get acquainted with horses at Kualoa Ranch Next Story Welcome to the world of 'Wumo'