Friday, August 26, 2011

hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet

I just finished reading this book - a New York Times bestseller - by Jamie Ford (  Despite having read a lot of very excellent books this summer, I can safely say that this is one of the best books I have read - all year.  It tells the story of a Chinese boy an a Japanese girl in Seattle during World War II, and switches back and forth, from that wartime era to forty years later, when the new owner of the Panama Hotel (which had been boarded up for decades) finds the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps.  Phew, that was a long sentence!

The book itself is a fast read (I started it and finished it in less than a day), not confusing at all - the relationships depicted by Ford are complex, but so sensitively rendered and so real.  The narration focuses around Henry, the Chinese boy, and consequently gives an interesting view of the events surrounding the Japanese internment - the view of a person tormented because of his race, and during World War II, often mistaken for "the enemy."  The conflict between the generations (young Henry's father, a Chinese nationalist who knew of the treatment of the Chinese people under the Japanese, harbored a deep hatred for the Japanese.  Later on, Henry and his own son must deal with problems of communication and general understanding of one another).

Most important are the friends in unlikely places, in troubled times.  Yes, I know that sounds cliche.  But it's true.

The Seattle Times called it "a wartime-era Chinese-Japanese variation on Romeo and Juliet."  Having read the entire book, I can see an amalgamation of the best parts of my favorite stories - even a bit of the story line of Claire and Lorenzo in Letters to Juliet (under graver circumstances, of course).

It's hard for me to say any more about it, but Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a worthwhile read for everybody.  May I say I might recommend this reading even more than I would recommend The Elegance of the Hedgehog?


  1. Aw, thanks Kat. Much appreciated.

    If you're looking for another good book, two that I've read recently and loved were:

    The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shen



  2. Wow, didn't imagine that you would read this post!
    Thanks so much for the book recommendations - they are definitely right up my alley. This goes on my reading list for next summer, I think :)
    Can't wait for your next book!