As I mentioned earlier, I am finally finished with my degree. Because of my passion for books I have studied literature for three years, but I haven’t had the time to read books that I want to read. Reading one book a week for my course was time consuming enough next to writing essays and dissertation, but this week I decided to read a book that I wanted to read. I have to admit that it felt amazing; I have really missed reading for pleasure. And I loved the book and thought it was about time for a book review again.
Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet is a beautiful story written my Jamie Ford. It is his debut novel and he tells the reader a story that is emotionally connected with a physical place and a state of mind that is both bitter and sweet.
The story starts when the reader is introduced to Henry Lee in 1986. He walks past the Panama Hotel in Seattle, which has been boarded up since World War II. He discovers that the new owner has found several boxes in the basement of the hotel, boxes that contain personal items that belonged to Japanese families who were evacuated to internment camps during the war. These boxes take Henry back to his childhood, leading the reader into the main storyline that is set in 1942. Henry is 12 years old then, a Chinese boy who is sent to go to an all-white school. Pearl Harbour is here a fresh memory for the American people and several of them thinks that Henry is Japanese and does not treat him well. Because of this, his father makes him wear a button that says “I am Chinese”. His life is not easy, and a less than perfect relationship with his father does not make it easier to be Henry.
Henry works in the school cafeteria and one day a Japanese girl named Keiko starts working with him. He knows that he should not make friends with her, but as he is the only Chinese student and she is the only Japanese at their school, they identify with each other and became true friends.
This is the start of a forbidden friendship that is the main framework of the story. It continues to reveal how it was like to be Chinese and Japanese during the war and the consequences that emerged.
I absolutely loved this book; I really did not want it to end. It is beautifully written and you cannot help but to fall in love with the characters and their dreams and hopes. The story gives the reader a vivid picture of what it was like to live in America at this time. The only thing I have to complain about is that Ford gives Henry thoughts and feelings beyond the maturity level of a 12 year old. But he writes it so well that it seems believable, which in my opinion is saying a great deal about the fantastic writing style of this novel. I absolutely recommend it, it is one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long time.