The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I very much enjoyed reading this book. It was a fast read for me.

It’s a historical fiction novel about the internment in WWII of Japanese and Americans with a Japanese background living in Seattle.

Henry is a 12 year old boy of Chinese origins who goes to an all-white school in the 1940s. His classmates tease him for being different. And after the attack against Pearl Harbor, they (and people in general) confront him for being Japanese. His father makes him wear a button saying “I am Chinese”.

His father is very anti-Japanese since the Japanese are at war with China at the same time. Henry befriends a new girl at school of Japanese origins (“I’m American” she says) who is treated just as bad as him. Her name is Keiko. Henry cannot mention this friendship at home, because his father would not allow it.

When the Americans start to round up Japanese citizens in the US to place them in camps, Henry is worried for Keiko. The novel is about the great love Henry and Keiko feel for each other, despite their young age. It is also about Henry respecting the wishes of his parents (or not).

The story is told from two perspectives: Henry in the 1940s and Henry in 1986, after his wife has died. This works well, although I thought the Henry in 1986 was described more like an old man than the 56-year old middle-aged man he was.

The language I found a bit childish at times, maybe trying to reflect Henry’s age in the 1940s. Or maybe it was due to the translation (I read this in Dutch).


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

10 Responses to The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

  1. Miel Abeille says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for no other reason than the title! Great review. 🙂

  2. Janna says:

    Great review! Thanks for the email letting me know you posted it.

    I really enjoyed this book. I reviewed back in March. Here’s a link to my review


  3. Carin B. says:

    Thanks for e-mailing me your review, Judith! I am going to read this book at some point. It sounds like it could be a worthwhile read. My family was very reluctant to talk about their time in camp so I try to read novels and non-fiction books about the camps (my grandmother did later open up about the camps and I have a lengthy letter about her time in camp–I’m very lucky to have it). When I get to it, I’ll let you know if the language is childish to me.

  4. booksploring says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this one for ages! Will definitely have to track it down now. Great review 🙂

  5. Shelley says:

    I read this about a year ago on a road trip to Washington state. It was a sweet story, and quick like you said.

    • leeswammes says:

      Yes, Shelley, it’s a sweet story but within the background there’s the war and the internments. The story was very well done, I thought.

  6. Bookjourney says:

    Yay – loved the review. I didnt feel the childishness of the language and no one mentioned that in my book club review of this either. I am curious if it was the translation.

    How cool to have it in Dutch! I love books in other languages – even if I can not read them. 😀

    • leeswammes says:

      I do think it probably is the Dutch translation. I must ask my Dutch friends… I only read Dutch and English, not so impressive when you live here. I wish I could read French better (so I could read a novel in French).

  7. Meg says:

    You read it in Dutch?! That’s beyond impressive! The story sounds sweet and like something I would enjoy, and I love that gorgeous cover.

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