Book Review – The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford


First published in 2009, this beautiful debut novel by Jamie Ford is one of the most moving and heartwarming books I have ever read.

The story is told throughout from the perspective of Henry Lee, a recently widowed Chinese man who has lived all his life in Seattle. It begins at The Panama Hotel, which once was the gateway to the city’s Japantown (and indeed still stands today), where the new owner has made an astonishing discovery in the basement of the premises – boxes upon boxes of possessions belonging to Japanese families, hidden there when they were forced to leave the city during World War II and sent to internment camps.

As the crowd gathers, including Henry, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple gesture transports Henry (and us with him) back to 1940s Seattle when, as a young boy sent to the exclusive elementary school at which he is one of the few non-White students, he meets a young Japanese girl called Keiko Okabe and a strong bond of friendship is formed. This wonderful novel takes us in to their lives at a time when such a friendship with anyone Japanese would be seen as a risk, particularly by traditional Chinese families like Henry’s family and his father in particular, whose life is consumed with the defeat of the Japanese.

As their story progresses, we move seamlessly between 1940’s Seattle and the present day, where Henry’s childhood story fascinates his own grown up son and helps him to learn more about and grow closer to his father, whilst providing the reader with a captivating story of love, loyalty and friendship.

I don’t want to give any more of the plot away as this book should be read without too much knowledge of the path the story takes. The writing by Jamie Ford is superb, bringing to life the worlds inhabited by the characters over the different time periods so clearly, that you cannot help but fall under the spell of the story of Henry and Keiko’s childhood bond. It is also an incredibly moving book, which gave me a far greater awareness of how Japanese families were treated in America during World War II. It is frightening that such actions occurred not too long ago.

Very few books have moved me quite so much as this one and I was incredibly sad when I reached the end and had to leave the world I had become a part of behind. It is now a novel I recommend to family and friends and have kept myself, so that one day I can enjoy its beauty all over again.

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford is available from all the usual book retailers.


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Si te consideras amante del chocolate, estás en blog adecuado.

Thoughts In Intervals

Tarryn Richardson

Telly Addict

I have been watching

Loitering In the Theatre

My experiences, good and bad, in London theatres.

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Mingled Yarns

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book

Cultural Capital

Theatre, arts and events in London


Theatre, Books, Food & Film/TV reviews

746 Books

Confessions of a Book Buying Addict

The Book Review Directory

Over 150 Book Reviewer Bloggers Listed

The Day - a Play

Theatre, Films, TV, Art

Cleopatra Loves Books

One reader's view

The X-Files Truth Podcast

"The following podcast is based on actual X-Files cases." Email:


Walking my way around the west end one show at a time

Semi-Partisan Politics

A semi-biased commentary on British and American politics, culture and current affairs


Movie and TV Reviews

Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

Life, Faith and Comic Books

%d bloggers like this: