A Queen’s Journey
In 1896, Boston freelance journalist Julius Palmer receives a summons from the deposed monarch of Hawaii, Lili’uokalani. When they’d first become acquainted in Honolulu, Julius had known her as Lydia Dominis, sister to the Hawaiian king, David Kalakaua. With only pleasing memories of the woman and her land, Julius meets the queen and becomes her unofficial press secretary in the United States. No one knows the motive for the queen’s visit, undertaken immediately after her release from a long incarceration by the Missionary Boys, as the queen calls the political junta opposing her. Lili’uokalani and Julius deal with threats to her life while she stays in the nation’s capital, meeting outgoing President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland had been opposed to the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands without the consent of her people, and the queen herself calls forth “an old gallantry and in his eyes a look any man would recognize” from the president.
A Queen’s Journey is Part One of an unfinished novel by James D. Houston, who died on April 16, 2009, in Santa Cruz, California. Though the book is curtailed, it is a well-told and complete story, narrated from Julius Palmer’s viewpoint. His appreciation for the Hawaiians’ generous spirit, which is “both their beauty and their undoing,” and his real affection for and attraction to Queen Lili’uokalani imbue the narrative of the queen’s journey to North America. In an afterword, Maxine Hong Kingston suggests Part Two may have included the events and relationships of the story from Queen Lili’uokalani’s perspective. That would have added another level of intimacy to this novel of the ties between the queen and the American journalist, between a sovereign and the nation that deposed her, and between the queen and her land and people.