Normally, I can put aside my job as a copy editor and enjoy books, but some of the errors and poor judgments in Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Swee...moreNormally, I can put aside my job as a copy editor and enjoy books, but some of the errors and poor judgments in Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet were so egregious that I found myself reaching for a red pen.
The 1942 passages, as far as I could tell, were well-researched, and the rough idea of the plot was compelling. The 1986 portions were a disaster, and the story seems to drag and repeat itself. We don't learn anything new every flashback/fast-forward, which, to me, defeats the purpose of a split-time setting.
My biggest gripes were the anachronisms in the 1986 part of the story and the portrayal of Henry's parents. There isn't really a good argument for choosing 1986 as the setting. A lot of the "modern" technology mentioned is very modern -- it wouldn't be accessible for at least another 10 years. Henry's son uses the internet to search for a person, but the internet was really not used a lot before the 1990s. I'm vaguely remembering that he might have been majoring in something computer-related, but even with that access and know-how, that wasn't something readily available in 1986. And CDs weren't big until the 1990s, either. In 1986, everyone was mostly using cassette tapes.
The treatment of Henry's parents is patronizing. Even when it's clear that they're speaking in Cantonese and the conversation is in English for the reader's convenience, they omit verbs in a very stereotypical portrayal of Asian immigrants. It makes no sense to suggest that they would be speaking so brokenly in their native language.
The mistakes really didn't make me think less of the author; like I said, the story is compelling. But the editor could have made it so much better with some strategic cutting and a closer read for fact-checking.(less)
After reading about Alethea Darcy in Mr. Darcy's Daughters and being somewhat familiar with her free spirit, wit, and independence, reading about her...moreAfter reading about Alethea Darcy in Mr. Darcy's Daughters and being somewhat familiar with her free spirit, wit, and independence, reading about her miserable marriage and her lonely trek across Europe was a little heart-wrenching. But because you like Alethea so much, you're pulling for her the whole time, and that makes the ending extra happy. This book explores gender roles more deeply than some of the other Aston books I've read, and that theme remains an important in Alethea's time (especially with her personality!), a generation after Austen wrote her novels.(less)
I didn't think this was as well laid out as Aston's other Austen-related novels. It mentions Louisa and Drummond united in getting Phoebe and Stanhope...moreI didn't think this was as well laid out as Aston's other Austen-related novels. It mentions Louisa and Drummond united in getting Phoebe and Stanhope together, but nothing happens with that again. And why not expose George Warren as a traitor? He's caused enough trouble. The last pages hint at a happy ending, but the conversations ensuring it don't happen. We don't see Mr. Drummond talk to Mr. Bingley. We don't hear Sir Giles' conversation with Mr. Darcy. It seemed like one more chapter would have been helpful. In past stories, I really enjoyed previous characters coming back, especially Camilla, and I had hoped to see more of Alethea and Titus Manningtree. I got the impression Aston was wrapping up the series, bringing everyone together at Pemberley and actually having Mr. Darcy speak -- even though he's in a couple of the titles and occasionally appears, he never actually speaks until now. I hope there's more. Her characters are so likeable, and while I understand that Austen stopped at marriage, Aston doesn't have the same social (and, possibly, knowledge) constraints. I would like to see what happens after all the happily ever afters.(less)
This is a beautifully written story that encapsulates what I've always heard about post-war Germany -- that many people were so ashamed of the Holocau...moreThis is a beautifully written story that encapsulates what I've always heard about post-war Germany -- that many people were so ashamed of the Holocaust and the Third Reich and didn't know how to reconcile themselves with their country's history. It was interesting to read something from the point of view of someone who didn't live World War II but inherited some of its aftermath.
The book evokes so many different emotions, it's hard to say whether it is a sad story or a satisfying story. It describes its own emotion best: "What a sad story, I thought for so long. Not that I now think it was happy. But I think it is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."(less)
I read this at entirely too young an age. I bought it at a book fair at school because it was one of the only books I thought would actually challenge...moreI read this at entirely too young an age. I bought it at a book fair at school because it was one of the only books I thought would actually challenge me that I hadn't read. In hindsight, this book probably shouldn't have been on any elementary school's shelf. As I've grown up, I have been able to appreciate the story more; at the time, I felt sick and only read it because I bought it (and it felt kind of forbidden).(less)