December 1941: the tropical warmth of the Honolulu sun beats down on Virginia or ‘Ginny’ Martin. A young, courageous and determined flying instructor posted in Hawaii from her hometown of Tennessee. Ginny is enjoying sipping on Mai Tai’s with her brother Jack and her friend Lilinoe, dancing the night away in a carefree blur. While World War Two rages in Europe, Hawaii is considered untouchable and Honolulu provides a welcoming isolation from the atrocity and destruction that is thousands of miles away, or so it is thought.
February 2019: Ginny’s dying wish is for Robyn and Ashleigh, her two granddaughters, to go to Hawaii, and complete one last treasure hunt, that she so often did for them as children. As fiercely competitive and athletic sisters, Robyn and Ashleigh have grown apart over the years after Ashleigh’s cycling accident, making her wheelchair bound. Ginny hints that there has been a secret about the past that she has kept hidden and it is imperative that Robyn and Ashleigh embark on this journey together to understand why she has kept it a secret all these years.
This novel embraces the intensity and often unexpected methods of warfare, its destruction and its ability for hope to triumph over fear. As we see flash backs to 1941 when Ginny was a female pilot stationed in Hawaii, her fiery determination is understood through the reality of female aviatrix’s being seen as inferior and not able to fly in combat, which riddles away at Ginny. Anna Stuart places a needed lens on the importance of the attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese in the Second World War; a devastating event that has often been labelled as simply a catalyst that persuaded the US to join the allied war time effort. Furthermore, Stuart has based the novel on many historical figures that were instrumental in the events of the attack on Pearl Harbour, adding to historical intrigue. With the benefit of hindsight, Stuart makes reference to the evident signs that an attack on Pearl Harbour was indeed a possibility. Reading A Letter from Pearl Harbour was a delight – it possesses an ability to reflect on the tragedy of the attack on Pearl Harbour, but more importantly how the ramifications of that devastating night that are carried through generations.
After discovering each clue, Robyn and Ashleigh learn more than they ever knew about their beloved grandmother, and in turn, about themselves. Robyn realises the frustration, anger and helplessness that Ashleigh has pent up since her accident, something that she hadn’t properly faced previously. Ashleigh learns to value her sister emotionally and tries to embrace her disability and combine it with her love of competition through trying different parasports. Not only that, but they both realise the vivacity and the determination through their Grandmother speaking to them from the pages of her letters attached to each clue. Not wanting to get side-tracked by the frivolity of love, Ginny plays the ultimate strong-willed and loveable character that Anna Stuart immediately portrays in a strikingly loyal and occasionally reckless light.
This novel speaks to the historian, the romantic, the reckless and the brave. A tale of pursuing what you believe is right sits amidst the horrific scenes of war. We are invited with Robyn and Ashleigh on their sentimental treasure hunt in which both sisters finally understand more about their grandmother’s life, whilst also opening their eyes to the possibility of how Ginny’s vivacious spirit will continue to live through them both.