Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetReview - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
A Novel
by Jamie Ford
Random House Audio, 2009
Review by Christian Perring
Mar 5th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 10)

This simple historical novel often feels like it was written for a young adult readership.  It is 1986 in Seattle, and Henry Lee is recently widowed.  He is a Chinese-American but a recent discovery in a hotel makes him look back on his youth during the Second World War, when he had a crush on a Japanese-American girl, Keiko.  In fact, even though they were only about 13, he now regards he romance with Keiko as the love of his life.  The bond they formed was largely due to the fact that they were both discriminated against as Asians when they were in school together.  They had adventures together in Seattle, especially in going around the city and seeing some sides of life that their parents never experienced.  They formed a love of jazz and followed Henry's musician friend Sheldon around.  But then Keiko and her family were moved to an internment camp.  Henry is able to see her there, and sees how they are treated. 

The strength of the novel is in its portrayal of the portrayal of the racism toward Japanese-Americans during the war, and the terrible sacrifices they were forced to make.  It is also powerful in its depiction of immigrant life and the tensions between Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans.   The relationship between Henry and Keiko is sentimentally drawn, and Henry's interactions with his son are mainly ways to move the plot forward.  Even though the love story is not very convincing, it does help structure the novel in a way that makes the novel interesting.

The unabridged audiobook is nicely performed by Feodor Chin, who reads the work with conviction. 

© 2009 Christian Perring

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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