Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford (Author)
The Panama Hotel in Seattle has been boarded up for decades, but the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: belongings stored by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. As Henry Lee stands in the crowd he wonders if a link still exists to the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago.Tweet
A story of long and enduring love separated by the passage of 40 years and the internment of Japanese people in America during the second war Seattle is torn apart, a whole community interned many miles away and their neighbourhood businesses and homes closed and torn down, plots sold and possessions destroyed. But... Some families were able to store their most precious items in the basement of the Panama hotel. Henry, a schoolboy, is sent to his ‘home’ village in China to complete his education. It is the wish of his dying, estranged, father and Henry will obey, but the boy extracts a promise which results in this story. This archive of Japanese goods is still in the basement of the hotel on the corner of Bitter and Sweet.
On the whole most of the book group really enjoyed this book, we wouldn't say that it was high literary fiction but it was very enjoyable and gave you something to think about. Interestingly this was the second read for one person who very much enjoyed it the first time but found it a little boring on the second read.
We were all amazed there wasn't much more in the book about the War, it all seemed to be very glossed over, but maybe this was because we were meant to be focusing on the characters involved rather than the historical background. It may also have been because of the age of the protaganists, they were both quite young and they were both focused on experiencing their first taste of love.
Thr group felt that this book was very interesting as many didn't realise how the Japanese population in America were treated during the Second World War. It's not something that is often discussed either in books or during our education about this time period. We compared their treatment to the treatment of Jews, and other nationalities in the European countries during this time. We then went on to discuss how we felt about our own nationalities as we all live in Wales but not all of us are Welsh either by birth or stepping back further into our pasts. We also spoke about how this is becoming more confusing for people as they are now second or even third generation living within the UK or even other countries, who do they feel their loyalties lie with?
Some of the group found that the story took a while to get going which didn't help their experience. But we all felt that the jumps between the past and the present day (for the novel) were done well without too much confusion. Some of thr group didn't enjoy the short chapters especially as some of them were within the same time with little difference in what was happening, we felt that this would have felt better with just a break within the chapter rather than a completely new chapter.
We discussed why we felt that the two yound people were so deeply in love despite being so young. We wondered whether it was the War going on around them that heightened their feelings, or maybe it was the fact that it was slightly forbidden on the part of the Chinese family. We also wondered whether that was why Henry still held such a strong torch for Keiko even during the present day. It did at times feel as though Henry was a bit obssessed with Keiko to the point of the reader becoming slightly uncomfortable.
The one thing that confused us all was that we felt that the people within the story always acted much older than they really are. It felt as though Henry was an old gentleman in the more recent sections of the book when he really wasn't that old at all.
Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10.