ages: 13 and up
grades: 7-8 and up (Years 9 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: library
publisher: Ballantine Books
title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
author: Jamie Ford
In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a story of Chinatown, America during the time of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour and is truly both bitter and sweet.
I had seen average ratings for this book, but decided that I'd give it a go anyway. I struggled to get through the first few chapters, and as I went on, though the idea of the story was sentimental and interesting, I knew that I could stop any time and not care what happened.
I have just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns which was the epitome of bitter-sweet, and this book didn't stand a chance, unfortunately. It may be unfair that I'm comparing it to such a great book, but I think even if I hadn't, I still would've thought this was mediocre.
Henry is, at first, a boy with no character. He obeyed his father and became friends with a Japanese girl named Keiko. They both had no character. The only unique thing about Henry is that he likes jazz music, and that seems to be something big in the story. It does have significance, but I don't like how that was the only thing that seemed to set him apart.
The backdrop, or setting, is interesting. It seemed like I was walking in an old American film. I think, in this case, the film would have been better than the book. I think it was quite...emotionless. Henry's relationship with his wife was just...nothing. His relationship to his friend Sheldon was just...there. A book without emotion is like a heart without love. I think that's what killed this book. Everything is fine, the storyline, the plot, the characters: but it's like a fish bone with no meat. The emotion was missing and it killed it.
I did like the ending, I liked how it tied with some elements in the beginning. I love the cover, and how it ties well into what the book is about. I'm sad to say that's as far as my interest in the book goes. I recommend it to people who are interested in this time period and Asian-themed historical fiction,
to read along with: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok