Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford

Title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford
Date Finished: March 21, 2009 #14
Published: 2009 Pages: 285
Rating: 4/5

Isn't that the most beautiful cover? I don't remember requesting this book, so I was so surprised to get it in the mail right before Christmas--right before I decided to stop taking in ARCs because Trish has too many books!! Eeeep! :)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the story of Henry Lee as he looks back on events that shaped his life. One afternoon he passes by the Panama Hotel in Seattle and notices that the hotel has come under new ownership and will be opening its doors for the first time in decades. Buried in the basement of the Panama Hotel, however, is a world of treasure from a lifetime forgotten--items that were left behind by the Japanese who were relocated to internment camps during WWII.

Seeing these items being brought into the open takes Henry back forty years to when he was a 12-year-old whose traditional Chinese parents stop his education at the Chinese school so he can attend the "white" school. At first Henry is the only Asian student, but soon he discovers a beautiful girl, Keiko, who is of Japanese descent. Their relationship is rocky at first and then one of necessity as they are teased by the other students--especially in light of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon they grow to be the closest friends, but they will have to part when Keiko's family is forced to leave Seattle for an internment camp in Idaho.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a really touching book about friendship and love, but also an important story of a piece of American history that is quickly looked over. I don't remember learning about the internment camps when I was in school--the first time I remember any mention is when I was read Snow Falling on Cedars several years ago. While this was a beautiful story, we don't learn very much about the internment camps other than they were heavily guarded, very large, and in the beginning not very pleasant (I felt that Ford sometimes simplified the camps). I do have a few books jotted down that I'm interested in reading, but I had hoped there would be more detail or perspective in this book.

While a great deal of the book takes place in flashbacks to the 1940s, there is also Henry's story in the present time. He is dealing with his wife's death and a shaky relationship with his son. I enjoyed both portions of the book, and thought that Ford pieced them together very nicely. I would recommend this book--while it won't be my favorite of the year (for me it was lacking a little ooomph), it was very enjoyable--heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I guess like the title: bitter and sweet.

35 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one. Great review!

Molly said...

I just recently won this book and I am very much looking forward to reading it -- probably this summer.

Laura said...

I do love the cover! So pretty!

I don't remember learning about the internment camps either, and I always paid attention in history classes. Even now, I know that it happened, but I haven't read anything about it. It makes you wonder what else is left out of our history books, huh?

(Maybe I should borrow this book and then read it and When the Emporer was Divine for the R-A-T, and do a Venn diagram. )

Joy said...

Yep - that's what I thought. :)

Diane said...

Great review Trish. I read this one too and rated it about the same. It was good.

Trish said...

*Bermuda - Can't wait to hear what you think!

*Molly - It is a pretty quick read--would be good for the read-a-thon if you're participating

*Laura - I definitely think you should do a Venn Diagram. I looked at my list of books about interment camps and When the Emporer was Divine is on it--I may have to borrow then do a Venn Diagram as well.

*Joy - Haha! I think by now you know my reading tastes better than I do!! ;)

*Diane - Glad you enjoyed it as well!

Dar said...

Great review Trish. This is one I'd love to read but sadly never got a copy. I'll probably pick it up one of these days. It does have one of the most beautiful covers.

booklineandsinker said...

i love the cover...but am leery because i recently picked up a slew of books based on their covers alone, and was sorely disappointed. i saw a review for this book on another blog...i'd like to give this book a read but i'm a bit backlogged. good thing summer's around the corner so i can do nothing but READ!!!

samantha.1020 said...

I've read so many reviews about this book lately that I have to add it to my TBR list. Great review Trish!

cj said...

It is beautiful, for sure, and it sounds interesting. However, I will argue one point with you - my dear, you can never, ever have too many books.

As for not learning about these things in history books - remember the saying:

History is written by the winners.

cjh

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I've seen mixed reviews of this book but I'm definitely going to try it out especially as I like reading about internment camps, it's one of those subjects I just can't seem to get enough of.

Trish said...

*Dar - I don't remember requesting or reading about this one at all, so it was a lovely surprise in the mail. Hope you can read it soon!

*Booklineandsinker - This wasn't a handsdownmustread book, but it was enjoyable. Great for summer vacation. I know what you mean about being backlogged!

*Sam - I think we'll be seeing this one around a lot. I definitely think it has wide appeal.

*CJ - Yes--I agree that history is written by the winners. It is unfortunate the things that go misunderstood or unknown, though. I'm getting to the point where I feel I do have too many books. Bookfool keeps talking about decluttering and it is making me anxious!! :)

*Natasha - I've actually jotted down a few books about internment camps that you've read in the past couple of months. The actual camps while a big part of the plot don't really get described a whole lot, though.

Literary Feline said...

I really like the cover for this one too. I bought a copy of this one because I wasn't patient enough to wait for the paperback copy to come out. Watch, now I won't read it until the paperback version is out. Go figure. :-)

I am glad you enjoyed this one. I am really interested in the historical aspects of this novel and find the premise fascinating.

Thanks for the great review, Trish!

Stephanie said...

I have a copy of this to read, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I'm glad you liked it!

Laura said...

I LOOOOVE your new background? How did you figure out how to change it? Did it takes lots of work? Anyways...it looks great!

Laura said...

Oops...I may have just spent like 45 minutes looking at the link Dar shared with you, and I could NOT decide on which one I liked the best! Fun site!

Melody said...

Ooh, I love the new look, Trish!

Thanks for the great review! I can't wait to dive into this book! ;)

Nymeth said...

The cover is indeed beautiful! And you know what else is beautiful? Your blog's new look :D Well done!

The first time I learned about internment camps was in a novel too: Obasan by Joy Kogawa.

Trish said...

*Literary Feline - I hear ya! I have a lot of hardcover books that I still haven't read--ones that I HAD to have right then and there. I've finally stopped buying them as often.

*Stephanie - I hope you like it! I don't think I've read very many negative things so far!

*Laura - Haha! I picked my template from the website Dar sent, then I had to change my column and font colors on blogger. I still had a little bit of green on the sides and the comment bar, but Dar helped me with the html coding to get rid of it. Good news is that if I ever get tired of this template, I know how to change the green now!!

*Melody - Thank you--it was much needed! I hope you like this book.

*Nymeth - Thank you thank you! Now that I know which html code needs to be changed for the background it will be easier in the future I hope. I remember you mentioning Obasan and I have the title jotted down with some others.

Jess said...

Hi Trish,
I just wanted you to know how much I love your blog. You won an award over at Barney's Book Blog. Here is the link to find out the details:

http://barneysbookblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/i-won-award.html

Congrats!

Jess
Barney's Book Blog

Debi said...

Whoa...I was thrown for a bit of loop when I clicked over here. But I really, really love your new look, Trish!

Michelle said...

Sounds like a really good read. It is curious to me that Interment Camps were never taught about in school... Do we not think it was that big of a deal or something. I will probably read this one soon...

Lenore said...

I thought about requesting this too, but yeah, Lenore has too many books too!

Once I claw my way out from under my massive TBR though, I want to read this.

S. Krishna said...

I've heard good things about this one - nice review!

Trish said...

*Jess - Thank you so much for your sweet words! I'll pop right over for the award

*Debi - Glad you like! I had that green background almost since I started blogging, so this is a nice change.

*Michelle - I think it is more a matter of trying to cover our mistakes? I really don't remember learning about it in my history classes.

*Lenore - LOL! I know all about Mountain TBR. Hope you get to this one soon.

*Swapna - Thanks--it was a decent read.

Ramya said...

when did you change your layout? love the new look! I guess these changes are the one I miss out on when I catch up on posts over google reader!:(

Ramya said...

btw, i just changed the commentator widget on my blog.. and yes.. my old widget was WAYYYY off! Thanks for pointing that out to me..and you've commented 69 times.. not 19! thanks a ton!:)

Madeleine said...

Thank-you for this great review.
I am adding this book to my wish list and yes I to love the cover :)

Trish said...

*Ramya - I had that same problem when I had the commenter widget on my blog. I still didn't think it was accurate and it was slowing down the loading of my blog (that may have been fixed since then), so I took it off. I need to see about putting it back on. I JUST changed the layout the other day. You definitely didn't miss much. :)

*Madeleine - I hope you like this one. The cover is such an eye catcher!

Jeanette said...

One of my professors in college did his dissertation on the internment camps so I learned a lot on the subject from him.
Something about this book just tugged at my heart strings. I know it was not the best book I've read but it just got to me. (Maybe the pregnancy hormones?)

Trish said...

*Jeanette - I would love to learn more about internment camps--I bet your teacher and the class was really interesting. I thought this was a good book, no doubt, but it didn't affect me emotionally like I thought it might. Maybe I need some pregnancy horomones. ;) *sigh* not for a while, I guess.

Idzan Ismail said...

Great review.
I love books about small town America where gossips, murder, love, mystery, fun and treachery abound.
Alas this book is unavailable in my country.

Anonymous said...

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123 123 said...

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Anna said...

Glad to see you liked the book overall. I'm looking forward to reading it for a January TLC tour. I hope it's okay that I linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric