Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford


Of the 6 books I read while on my recent vacation, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the only one I can recommend wholeheartedly. Rarely does a book elicit a visceral response from me - but this one did. It made me cry. The best part of the is book is that Jamie Ford's writing is so subtle it made me forget I was reading. I was simply along for the ride. Sometimes while reading a really good book I'll be thinking, "this is a terrific book. I'm going to write a book review of it." Not Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I didn't even think of it subjectively until I finished it. Then I said (out loud while sitting by the pool) - "What an amazing story." And that is the strength of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The story. No lyrical prose or gorgeous language, no clever plot devices, no surprise ending. Just a wonderful story, simply told. To me, that is the sign of a talented author. I'm anxious to read more from Jamie Ford.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells the story of Henry and Keiko, two 12 year olds living in Seattle in 1942 - the height of WWII. Henry, who is Chinese and Keiko, who is Japanese are the only non-whites attending Rainer Elementary School. Because they are both there on scholarship, they meet and become friends while working in the school cafeteria. Both find refuge from the taunting of their schoolmates in their friendship and in their shared love of jazz music. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Keiko's family, along with the hundreds of other Japanese families living in Seattle's Japantown, is evacuated to an internment camp "for their own protection". Eventually Henry loses contact with Keiko, but he never forgets her.

But Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is about so much more than Henry and Keiko's friendship. It's about Henry's life as the only son of a proud Chinese family. It's about Seattle's fledgling jazz scene and the power of music to bind people together. It's about the difficult experiences of discrimination and prejudice faced by people who are considered to be "outsiders". But, at its heart, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is about hope and memories. Memories of people who have touched our lives and been lost to time...and hope that we will find some small way to keep those memories alive.

I would give Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet 4 STARS (I really liked it).

Image from Google images.

11 comments:

Tammy Howard said...

I just read something else about this recently, and I can't for the life of me think of where...

It sounds just lovely. You don't give your '4's' out liberally, so I'm really looking forward to this one. Sorry the other five fell flat...

Anita said...

I'd heard a lot about this book, and now ofcourse I'll be adding it to my list, you've given it a lovely review Pam.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"I was simply along for the ride."

Now that's good vacation reading. Curious what the other five were. Reading this makes me want to bury myself and read for days on end. Just checked out 8 books from the library. I look for this one next time around.

Anonymous said...

I have heard of this book and find even the title intriguing. I am looking forward to reading this now even more after your wonderful review. i have so many books on my to read list....need a couple of months off just to catch up. That's not a complaint...I love to know that I have a book on the horizon to lose myself in,and you make it so easy.

Colleen

Sue Jackson said...

Wow, this sounds so good - I really appreciated you including your emotional response to the book - I can't wait to read it!

Sue

Gamma Sharon said...

Sounds like another must read for my list. And Pam, I am almost done with The
Gargoyle, all the innuendos of things he wont tell in this story are intriguing. He makes me want to know everything about him. And I am not sure if the "he" is the author or the narrator in the book.

BPOTW said...

I was with you until you said it made you cry! But it sounds like a great read.

Tessa said...

How wonderful to have discovered your blog, Pam! I'm a voracious reader and devour reviews and crits on books by fellow bloggers. Thank you for this wonderful post about the beautifully titled 'Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet'. I will race off now to order it from Amazon. Before I do, however, I must read more of your reviews. The danger is that I shall probably have a list a yard long to add to my Amazon order once I'm done!

nan said...

Hi Pam! Just catching up with my blogs, and this review caught my eye. I have had this book on my list, and I now need to move it up! I enjoy your book reviews. It is obvious that you love to read and are in the know on what is good in new!

Crystal said...

I am glad you reviewed this as I just picked up the other day to have shipped to Kuwait. They have told me to bring books as they are hard to get in English and expensive. I am looking forward to it~

Elizabeth a.k.a. Type A Mommy said...

I'm glad to read this - I just picked this book up at Target last night, upon a friend's recommendation. Her recommendation was strong, but nowhere near as convincing as yours! Thanks for sharing, and happy SITS day to you today!

 

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