Lynn's Reviews > Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
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Feb 24, 09


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 chinese boy who is thrown together with a young japanese girl in Seattle during WW2. It is the story of their friendship/love, and also that of the other relationships that the boy has: his Chinese parents, a local black jazz musician, and later with his own son and son's fiance. Very well written, and very touching.

It gave an interesting insight into the Chinese views of the war, along with the effects, and the aftermath, of the Japanese internment on the Seattle area.
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Comments (showing 1-43 of 43) (43 new)

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Tricia I've heard good things about it and I love the cover. Thanks!


Dara I caught that too. I didn't think CDs became really big until the early or mid 90s. Then again I was only two in 1986 so I don't remember.

Otherwise it's been a really great book thus far.


Rachel I caught the anachronisms too. Seemed odd as they were SO obvious. I wonder if the book was originally set later - like 1996 - and at some point the publisher changed the date.


Barbara I'm glad to see that someone else noticed the anachronisms. Most of the general public is probably not aware that the internet came into public use in 1991. But really---who edited this book? I LOVED the story and the writing style. I look forward to more from this author---hopefully the next book will be fact checked. I want to write to someone and complain!


Julie Yup, I noticed that as well... I kept thinking, wow, the son's college is super-high-tech for 1986! :)

I really liked the book as well, though,


Cindy It isn't just the internet issue . . . Brandon Lee wasn't buried in 1986 in any cemetary. Brandon died in the 90s. Perhaps it was an editing change on the year, though I can't imagine why they would have changed the year and not corrected such glaring inconsistencies. Set me up to mistrust the book from page one. I'm trying to get past that and enjoy the story . . .


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Cindy wrote: "It isn't just the internet issue . . . Brandon Lee wasn't buried in 1986 in any cemetary. Brandon died in the 90s. Perhaps it was an editing change on the year, though I can't imagine why they woul..."

I hope that you were able to see through inconsistencies and finish the book -- I had my doubts at that first mention of online support groups but I stuck with it and am so glad I did. In my opinion the story more than makes up for these problems.



Cindy I did finish it, and enjoyed most of the book. The anachronisms really bugged me though - there were simply too many, and they began glaringly on page one. Don't publishers have real editors anymore? Did they simply spell check and move on?

I kept telling myself it is fiction, so . . . so what? And the answer . . . so it created an area of mistrust in the story that made me doubt the honesty of the representation of a period in America's history that was tragic and real. Even my favorite scene, which I found haunting, revealing, moving and very well written - when Henry encounters the photographer in the alley documenting Japanese-Americans burning their family memorabilia in a vain attempt to prove their loyalty and secure their freedom - even that was tainted by my basic distrust of the story, created on page one. I gave it 2 stars.


Julia I caught those 1986 anachronisms as well, but luckily, it wasn't enough to destroy my full enjoyment of the book.


Julie I thought it was a little weird that the "present day" part of the book was set in 1986. So Henry's son would be the right age, I guess? Still, it seemed somewhat arbitrary and, as you've all noted, caused anachronisms. I still loved the book, though.


melanie (lit*chick) Glad to have found this thread - I noticed these too and was thinking surely the date is wrong or I'm crazy. I'm not that far along, but will continue to read since I've heard good things about it.


message 12: by Cyd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cyd Actually people could talk on line in 1986 using CompuServe. And CD players were to be had in the mid-80s but they could be pricey. (My boyfriend had one, much prized).


message 13: by Liesl (new)

Liesl Shurtliff Wow, I just blew over the anachronisms but I suppose that's because I grew up with CD's and the internet so I just glazed over it. But wow, just another piece of evidence that editors do not edit! Still, a minor flaw in an otherwise beautiful book.


message 14: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Reppe Cyd wrote: "Actually people could talk on line in 1986 using CompuServe. And CD players were to be had in the mid-80s but they could be pricey. (My boyfriend had one, much prized)."

"Actually, there were no on-line support groups back then."


Regina I loved the book and totally missed catching this error on the author's part! Too funny! Still worth the read though!


message 16: by Irisheyz77 (last edited Dec 26, 2009 10:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irisheyz77 Sonia wrote: "Cyd wrote: "Actually people could talk on line in 1986 using CompuServe. And CD players were to be had in the mid-80s but they could be pricey. (My boyfriend had one, much prized)."

"Actually,there were no on-line support groups back then."



Actually..."Since at least 1982, the Internet has provided a new and successful venue for support groups. Discussing on-line self-help support groups as the precursor to e-therapy, Martha Ainsworth notes that "the enduring success of these groups has firmly established the potential of computer-mediated communication to enable discussion of sensitive personal issues."

"When the first national on-line services (The Source and Compuserve) allowed nationwide on-line communication for personal computer users, beginning in 1979, it was not long until formally organized on-line support groups became popular."

Source: Ainsworth, Martha. "E-Therapy: History and Survey". http://www.metanoia.org/imhs/history.htm. Retrieved 2009-12-26.

Compact Discs were coinvented by Philips Electronics N.V. and Sony Corporation in the late 1970s...and were introduced commercially in 1982. With CD players generally available in 1983. David Bowie had his entire works converted to CDs in 1985 and Dire Straits was the first artist to sell a million copies in 1985.

Sources:
The New Schwann Record & Tape Guide Volume 37 No. 2 February 1985
"Sony History: A Great Invention 100 Years On". Sony. http://www.sony.net/Fun/SH/1-20/h5.html Retrieved 2009-12-26.



Irisheyz77 Almost forgot to mention...the book referenced Bruce Lee not Brandon...Bruce died in 1973 and was laid to rest in Seattle on 31 July 1973. The sentence on page 2 reads "She now had a gorgeous view of Lake Washington, and was interred with Seattle's other Chinese notables, like Bruce Lee."


message 18: by Sarah (last edited Dec 31, 2009 10:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sarah

Correct, on both your recent posts.




Sarah Irisheyz77 wrote: "Almost forgot to mention...the book referenced Bruce Lee not Brandon...Bruce died in 1973 and was laid to rest in Seattle on 31 July 1973. The sentence on page 2 reads "She now had a gorgeous view ..."

That's right, I was wondering who the "Brandon" was! LOL!


message 20: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Reppe beginning in 1979, it was not long until formally organized on-line support groups became popular..."

Depends on what you consider "not long" and "popular." Most people agree that on-line support groups didn't become popular until the mid-90's. I could understand that for an old person looking back, fifteen years doesn't seem long at all. As I get older time seems to fly. But that's a different discussion. Your statement doesn't say that there were on-line groups in 1986, it just says, "not long." That's not convincing me.


Irisheyz77 Since at least 1982, the Internet has provided a new and successful venue for support groups. Discussing on-line self-help support groups as the precursor to e-therapy, Martha Ainsworth notes that "the enduring success of these groups has firmly established the potential of computer-mediated communication to enable discussion of sensitive personal issues."

http://www.metanoia.org/imhs/history.htm


message 22: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Reppe Irisheyz77 wrote: "Since at least 1982, the Internet has provided a new and successful venue for support groups. Discussing on-line self-help support groups as the precursor to e-therapy, Martha Ainsworth notes that ..."

yeah, I tried clicking on that link. I would just like to know specifically which support groups were on-line in 1986.


message 23: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan North This book was enjoyable and interesting but I was ultimately unsatisfied with the ending.


message 24: by Marilyn (new) - added it

Marilyn Carr I thought the online reference was odd too considering it's supposed to take place in 1986.


Kelly After reading this (and other) comments about the book's anachronisms, I was confused. My book never mentioned an online support group. I did some investigating and found that at least 2 versions of the book exist. I've seen one that says, "He'd been seeing a counselor and dealing with his mother's death through an online support group, whatever that was. Going online sounded like talking to no one, which Henry had some firsthand experience in-in real life." My version, however, omits this part. Instead it just mentions that Marty was seeing a counselor to deal with his mother's death, and that Hengry felt like talking to a stranger was talking to no one.

So it appears as though the editors fixed their original oversight, though it is surprising that they let it slip by in the first place.


message 26: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy There were misspellings/typos also that the editors didn't catch. Definitely impacted my enjoyment of this book in a negative way.


Barbara Based on lots of the comments here, I guess I am OK with accepting the internet use... but there is a reference to "hot curlers" used in the 40s... I could be wrong but I don't think so. I think hot curlers came into use in about the 60s or 70s. Does anybody know for sure? In spite of all of this, I am enjoying the book. It is an engaging read!


message 28: by Anne (new)

Anne The anachronisms extend to the descriptions of 1940s, too, if my understanding is correct. Phrases like "hot rollers," "checkout counter," and "dumpster," were jarring. I was born in 1948, so I'm not an authority on the 40s, but those phrases were not common in the 1950s!


Julia I was in grad school in NYC between 1983 and 1986, and I clearly remember having a discussion with my then-boyfriend who was insisting that CDs sounded too mechanical compared to vinyl. So CDs were definitely getting popular in 1986.


Breezy Online support groups began in the late-70's/early 80's on local networks, such as those at large corporations or universities. (Pre-Internet but "online.")
The first major CD's in the US were released in 1983, and the first CD that sold 1 million copies was released in 1985.
Digital music and online connections were not a routine part of popular culture as they are now (Henry actually says "an online support group, whatever that was") but they are not anachronistic to 1986.


Casey you are so right about the internet references,...


Audrey I'm sure CD's were not taking over sales of records in 1986!


Linda I looked up the support group and the book NEVER says online support, at least my edition does not. Neither does it say Brandon Lee, it only mentions Bruce Lee. Were changes made in the paperback edition???


Casey don't have my copy any longer (it was a library book) but I know it alluded to Brandon Lee, if not by name then by "Bruce Lee and his son", but anyway...I still enjoyed the book.


message 35: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I read in another thread that changes were made in later editions. I have an older copy from the library and it does say "online support groups" and does mention Bruce AND Brandon being buried in the cemetery. I think some f the glaring anachronisms were taken out later.


Jenny Bowker The other one that bothered me was the reference to an electric rice cooker. While the first was made in 1942 it was terracotta and wood and kept braeking when heat was applied. Certainly by the date the story is set in there would not have been one in basic households. I think I saw my first one in 1981.


message 37: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Akins B


message 38: by J.L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

J.L. When I lived in Hawaii, my Japanese friends were wired with rice cookers. Japanese models I'd never seen or heard of. This was in 1970. I'm not sure about earlier ones, rice is important in other countries. Imports to our families in the Puget Sound area are possible at that time. On "on-line" grief, Seattle is the leader in 911 calls and ambulance response. We invented it. And UW with its fine medical school could have had one. I heard of one in my town. On-line could mean phone.


Brenda I got my first CD player in 1988 and they had been around for some years by then.


message 40: by Bob (new)

Bob Warden I got my first CD player in 1985, so no anachronism there.


message 41: by Ag (new)

Ag Lee In about 1986 on behalf of a friend, I followed an online support group for childhood leukemia. The format wasn't elegant, but families shared a valuable information and provided mutual support.


ANNE E MORIN I can't believe I didn't even register the incompatibility of computers and the 80s! I do seem to remember, however, using CD's and, while there may not have been formal online support groups, there were chat rooms, some of which may indeed have been considered legitimate support groups. Maybe that is one of the reasons I enjoyed the story so much I've read it twice, very rare for me. I think the other reason I liked the book is that, for me, the compassionate portrayal of an oldster, Henry, felt real and not, as is often the case, overly sympathetic and sugary sweet. I may have given the author more room because of this. It is good to read a story about Asian Americans who are willing to discuss the prejudice they experienced, especially in the schools where bullying was not yet considered an issue but occurred with regularity. This book is a favorite of mine, even though it seems to have had some deep wrinkles here and there.


Kelly A sweet story, yet a sad story.
A few flaws that the publisher should have asked the author to clean up, but not damming. This book has taught me so much about the history- ie the way in which Japanese and Japanese Americans were treated- that is crucial to the US and WWII events. So much emphasis on the Nazis, Hitler, and the Jews- I had no idea until recently that these 'evacuations' took place. What a shame.


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