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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  191,335 Ratings  ·  17,037 Reviews
In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent t ...more
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published January 27th 2009 by Ballantine Books
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Mary there is no profanity, but one does read the racist names that people used at the time to offend others they were afraid of, but it's all in context.…morethere is no profanity, but one does read the racist names that people used at the time to offend others they were afraid of, but it's all in context. (less)
Sam As of late 2015 there's nothing public to indicate any interest in making this book into a movie.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nan
Apr 21, 2013 Nan rated it did not like it
Original review posted: Mar 19, 09

I have to admit that I did not like this book. Mr. Ford is a decent writer, and while he did research 1942 fairly extensively, he did a crappy job portraying 1986. I was alive in '86. I was ten, in fact. While my memory of the time is going to be different than that of a 50 year old character, I wound up being very tired of the repeated anachronisms. In one paragraph--on page four of the book, I believe--the narrator tells the readers that the main character's s
...more
Jeff
Mar 21, 2009 Jeff rated it liked it
"Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" is as saccharine and overly sentimental as the title suggests. It is historical fiction for the Nicholas Sparks set -- an emotionally heavy-handed novel that is well told, but not particularly well written.

There are some diamonds in the rough, though: the historical aspects of the novel are very interesting; the relationships depicted in the book, while not always believable, are complex; and, the issues related to cultural identity and racial discrimin
...more
Lynn
Feb 24, 2009 Lynn rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, but I had one minor annoyance with it. The author had 4 anachronisms: the book is set (in part) in 1986, and yet the son is in an "on-line" grief support group, and used the internet to look up a lost friend, and there is talk twice about digital conversion of records to CDs.

This book is told by a 50+ year old second generation Chinese-American. It is told in two different time periods, and flows back and forth between the 1940's to 1986 seemlessly. It is the story of a young
...more
Jason Koivu
For me Jamie Ford's heralded, multiple award-winning Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an entirely luke warm reading experience from start to finish.

The emotional heat that should have brewed within a story of this nature, considering the volatile subject matter, failed to materialize. I never tasted the venom of injustice as I should have. The details of Japanese internment in America during WWII was certainly interesting to read about, especially since I know so little about it. See
...more
Ariella
Dec 20, 2012 Ariella rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
Oy vey.
I really did want to like this book. It sounded like the perfect book for my mood: Not too highfalutin or literary, but a good story I which I can immerse myself and escape to a different time and place.
As I went on Goodreads a few days ago to add the book to my list of 'currently reading' however, I came across a number of really bad reviews. Disappointed, and somewhat deflated, I nevertheless read on trying to ignore the negativity, stay positive and try to like the story and get into
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Feb 03, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Cultural: Asian - Chinese & Japanese
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: GR Group read - LoveOfReading
Switching between 1942 and 1986 this is an easy read on a complex subject. A historical romance with a Romeo & Juliet twist, this time the doomed love affair between Henry, a Chinese American and Keiko, a Japanese American; its historical focus the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2.
I loved the inclusion of Seattle’s music scene, the symbolism of the lost jazz record interwoven throughout, the passages that escalated it above a pure romance novel. (view spoiler)
...more
Laura
Dec 07, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Release Date 1/27/2009, $24.00

I've just finished reading Jamie Ford's forthcoming novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and am still basking in the glow. The characters are fully realized, the title is a real attention grabber, and the story fleshed out with plenty of local and period detail. Ford provides an intimate look at life on the homefront during WWII from the uncommon perpective of an earnest Chinese-American boy and his
...more
Aoibhínn
Aug 11, 2014 Aoibhínn rated it it was amazing
Set in Seattle, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells of the forbidden friendship between a Chinese-American boy named Henry Lee and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko Okabe during the Second World War. Henry and Keiko are both just twelve years old when they become friends in 1942. Life is difficult for both of them. They face racism and prejudice on a daily basis and Henry's father does not approve of the friendship. After the devastation of Pearl Harbour, the US government decides t ...more
Susan
May 05, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing
I'm always a little behind the curve when it comes to reading blockbuster NYT bestsellers. I think a part of me resists because I love finding "little" books that deserve kudos and talking about them. But I had heard so many good things about THE HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET that I bought it, though I sat on it a while before I cracked it open to read. Once I did, I was hooked instantly by the wonderful character of Henry Lee, a 12-year-old boy in Seattle's Chinatown during the early ...more
Laura
Aug 20, 2012 Laura rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Laura by: book club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
I am Chinese

This was a touching story of friendship, love and loss. I enjoyed this very much. Great characters, rich history and beautifully written. My local library picked this as the second book in their book club. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks of it.
Karla
A rich, tender, personal story so touching and full of history I should know, but didn't. Pulled at my heartstrings and made me longingly linger over and over the last few chapters.
Set durring the height of Nihonmachi district (JapanTown) area of Seattle, Washingtom. You jump from 1986 to 1942 thoughout the story. To tell the tale of Henery Lee an intelligent, brave, 12yr old Chinese American quickly growing into a man thru struggling WWII times. He has a strained relationship with his father mi
...more
JoAnn/QuAppelle
Sep 17, 2009 JoAnn/QuAppelle rated it it was ok
I had heard lots about this book, but had not put it on my TBR list. So when I saw the audio at the library, I figured...what the heck, may as well try it! I might not have finished it if I had an alternative book in the car to read. Sometimes the reader annoyed me when he said the main character's (Henry's) words with a Chinese accent (inconsistently at that!) .... since Henry had been born in the US.

I usually do not like when an author switches back and forth from one time period to another, b
...more
Linda
Feb 13, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing
Great book. I love novels based on historical fact. I finished it in just a day and a half. Hard to believe it is a first novel. I am looking forward to more from this author. I looked up some of the people and places mentioned in the book, just to see if they were real - and was pleased to find that they were. Of course if I had read the acknolwedgements at the end of the book I would have known that already.
Miz
Wow, just wow. This book was masterfully told and while it started slow, it built into a crescendo of feelings and emotions. The character development was amazing, the storyline outstanding, and the writing masterful.

Recommend this. Pick it up, read it.
Amalia
May 12, 2010 Amalia rated it liked it
After reading how many people absolutely adore this book, I almost feel a little guilty giving it a "meh" review. But....a "meh" review it deserves, and that's what it shall get from me.

First, the good: My sense is that this story has raised awareness of the internment camps that many Japanese-Americans were placed in during WWII. As someone who believes that without knowledge of history we're doomed to repeat it, I think that's timely and important knowledge for people to have. The story of Hen
...more
Claudine
Jan 31, 2009 Claudine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Hotel made me cry, made me laugh and brought me joy. It's a beautifully written and tender story about first love, the human experience surrounding racial divides, generational conflicts, and the internment of Japanese Americans. You won't be disappointed with Hotel.
K
No. Just, no.

I had pretty much decided to abandon this book unfinished when I received notification that the audiobook I had requested from the library was now available for download. Well, that clinched it.

And so, in the style of Goodnight Moon, I am bidding this book good-bye. Good-bye book. Good-bye hopelessly twee title (which should have been a clue). Good-bye awkward dialogue, and good-bye emotional manipulation. Good-bye, poor cliched struggling immigrant adolescent Henry. Good-bye, clea
...more
Ashley
Jun 29, 2015 Ashley rated it liked it
** 3 1/2 stars **

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford follows the life of Henry Lee during 1942 and 1986 in Seattle, Washington. Henry is a first-generation Chinese American whose father's heart is still in China. Henry is sent to an all-white school on scholarship because his father wants Henry to "be American". While there, Henry befriends a Japanese girl named Keiko who is also accepted at the school on scholarship. Henry knows his friendship with this young girl will upset h
...more
Janelle
Oct 05, 2010 Janelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, favorites
If this isn't an eye opening book, I don't know what is.

This is a story of a 1st generation Chinese American boy named Henry in 1942 Seattle. During World War II his father wants to ensure no one confuses him for the ostracized Japanese and sends his son to an all white school with an "I Am Chinese" button on his clothing. There he meets 2nd generation Japanese American girl named Keiko. Though Henry's father has a passionate hatred for the Japanese, Henry develops a sweet, deep and secretive f
...more
Tasha enderby
Sep 14, 2010 Tasha enderby rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, world-war-ii
My book club read this book and when I passed the cover in an airport I knew I just had to read it. When my girlfriend found it on sale it put it on my list.

Okay this is a do not pass up book, the reading is light goes quickly but the story is deep. I can't help but think of my very first real crush I had in the seventh grade, it my first attempt at understanding the very adult feeling I was having towards Tony. The funny thing is I can't tell you my husbands birthday but I can still remember th
...more
Crystal Craig
Jamie Ford's, 'Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet' lived up to my expectations. This book has a title that begs you to pick it up. It's about history and culture and music. But, like most love stories that take place during war times - there's sadness and heartbreak.
Connie
I found this debut novel by Jamie Ford to be exactly what the title suggested...bitter and sweet. Knowing that this story revolved around the "imprisonment" of Japanese "Americans" during WW 2 I was at first expecting that to be more of the focus of this book. Instead I found a story of first love, everlasting love, of a good person and a life lived.

Henry (Chinese) and Keiko (Japanese) become fast friends when they are young, the outsiders in an all white school. Their bond is tested when she
...more
Bobby
Jul 07, 2010 Bobby rated it it was amazing
Reading this novel was in itself a memorable experience. There are books that I must hug when I finish reading. I hugged Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet often when reading, emotion taking over throughout, needing pauses to appreciate and feel rather than continuing to read. In that way, the novel is not a page turner. The warmth and honesty is just too much. I think that after a lifetime of reading, I have found a new treasure.



Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a modern Romeo and
...more
Jeanette
Mar 11, 2009 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, wwii
I really wanted to rate this book a 5 and if I gave half ratings I suppose I'd give it 4.5. This book just drew me into the setting of Seattle during the 1940s and the internment of American citizens who were of Japanese decent during WWII. This book, in fact, made me cry which is an effect that few books have on me. I tend to be a fairly stoic person and that carries over into my reading but by the time I was finishing this book I was all weepy and glad no one was around to see me working my wa ...more
Jennifer Lane
Apr 23, 2011 Jennifer Lane rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
I tend to enjoy novels that flash back and forth from past to present, and this novel was no different (though "present" is 1986). The story features Henry, a Chinese man in his fifties who lives in Seattle. The bulk of the events take place in the early 1940's during the heart of WWII, when Henry was only twelve. His Chinese parents enact several harsh rules for their son: sending him to an American school where he's beaten and teased for being Chinese, insisting he speak to them only in Englis ...more
Eve
Nov 01, 2010 Eve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
I was at Sam's Club perusing the discounted paperbacks when an elderly woman approached me. She handed me a copy of this book and said, "You need to read this." I looked it over, waited until she had walked away and put the book back. Big mistake! Six months later, I've come to see that she was absolutely right! This book was amazing!

There is so much history in this book, and according to the author's note, the events and locations are based on facts. "I have attempted to create a historic land
...more
Gail
Feb 15, 2009 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Although this is probably one of those implausible love stories that D. Steele might have written, the story is so much bigger and deeper because the author uses a first love to describe the differences and similarities of three generations of Chinese fathers and sons and what it means to be "American".

The setting moves back and forth between Seattle's International District during WWII and contemporary Seattle. So, that gives it a special geographical interest to me. The author gives an intima
...more
Stella
Feb 03, 2013 Stella rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, fiction
I loved this book so much. I am glad I didn't read any of the reviews before I downloaded the Kindle sample. By the end of the sample I was hooked and purchased the book and no bad review could have ruined it for me. (people seem to be really upset about a few errouneous references to the internet in the 80s. Yes, I got that, too, but it really didn’t ruin the book)

Apart from the historical setting of Japanese internment during the World War 2, something I didn’t know much about, I was truly int
...more
Amy
Feb 08, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with the main character of this book from the first chapter. A wonderful story of love told through the lens of racism, prejudice, and war. Good storytelling combined with memorable and endearing characters. Highly recommended.
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My name is James. Yes, I'm a dude.

I’m also the New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet—which was, in no particular order, an IndieBound NEXT List Selection, a Borders Original Voices Selection, a Barnes & Noble Book Club Selection, Pennie’s Pick at Costco, a Target Bookmarked Club Pick, and a National Bestseller. It was also named the #1 Book Club Pick for
...more
More about Jamie Ford...

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“The hardest choices in life aren't between what's right and what's wrong but between what's right and what's best.” 336 likes
“I had my chance.' He said it, retiring from a lifetime of wanting. 'I had my chance, and sometimes in life, there are no second chances. You look at what you have, not what you miss, and you move forward.” 226 likes
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