Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford
Published: January 2009
Published By: Random House Inc.
Format Read: Kobo, eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a dual time period novel that following Chinese-American Henry Lee as he recalls his experiences during the war years growing up in Seattle. In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbour and the war raging between Japan and China, Henry’s father is more patriotic than ever. And although Henry was born in the USA, his Asian features makes him a target, especially in the all-white school his father insists he attends.
At 12 years old, life is very lonely for Henry until a new student by the name of Keiko Okabe comes to his school on scholarship. A beautiful friendship blossoms, however the Japanese (even the Japanese American’s) are seen as the enemy and his father greatly disapproves. Can the bond that Henry and Keiko made survive their separation as she and her family are forced off to an internment camp for the duration of the war?
Jamie Ford has written a beautiful tale of friendship and love. The bond that Henry and Keiko form felt so pure and genuine. It wasn’t a frivolous pre-teen crush, but something far more meaningful and strong.
The treatment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry after the attacks on Pearl Harbour was terrible. It amazed me how they persevered and fought to prove their pride and allegiance to their country.
Despite the sad subject manner, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a quick and easy read. I enjoyed Ford’s writing style and the way he tied in the two time periods: the early 1940’s and the mid 1980’s. I also learned a lot about the differences in the traditional Chinese and Japanese cultures, which was quite interesting.
I would recommend Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to historical fiction lovers, especially those with an interest in life on the home front and the plight of the Japanese-American’s during World War II. Although it is technically adult fiction, I think that the subject manner would make for a great learning experience for younger readers as well.