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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  274,833 ratings  ·  21,036 reviews
In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese Ame ...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)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  274,833 ratings  ·  21,036 reviews

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Mar 21, 2009 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
Mar 19, 2009 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
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Set in Seattle during the Japanese internment during WW2. This book has a sweeping feel to it. It starts out slow - but not slow in the sense who feel like you are waiting for paint to dry - but slow in the "This is really going somewhere" kind of way. It does go somewhere by the way. Once the ball gets rolling, this book sweeps you up into the lives of two friends who made a promise to see each other again.

The book begins as Henry Lee stands in front of the Panama Hotel. This hotel has been boa
Feb 24, 2009 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
Jason Koivu
Jan 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: war, fiction
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
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an easy book to get swept into. Henry Lee's search into his past is triggered by a discovery , at the Panama Hotel, of belongings from Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during WWII. Among those belongings, Henry is hoping to find one specific memory which connects him to the love of his youth, the Japanese-American girl, Keiko Okabe. Can Henry recover what he's lost 40 years ago? After all those years, will it even look t ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an absorbing story of hope and love. It is set against the politically tumultuous period of World War II, where we experience the alienation forces between the Chinese, Japanese and America people as they live together in the United States. Henry is a Chinese-American boy who lives in Chinatown, Seattle and is close friends with the only other non-white student at his school. That friend is Keiko, a Japanese-American girl who lives in Seattle’s Niho
Nov 08, 2012 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
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
This was my first ever audiobook. It was a good choice, listening to it being read with Chinese accents from Henry and his family made it even more interesting.

This is the story of Henry, an American born Chinese American and his family, including his dogmatic and anti-Japanese father.

Keiko is a second generation Japanese American.

The two meet in a special school where they have won scholarships because of their high intellect. They are the two OUTCASTS in an otherwise all white school. It is th
مرجان محمدی
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
:نامه نویسنده به خوانندگان ایرانی

Dear friend,

When I heard that my debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was going to be published in Persian, my first thought was, “Fantastic! Perhaps I could attend the Tehran Book Festival.”
You see I would love to visit your country.
I’ve had friends travel to Iran in the past and they’ve told me wonderful things—about the history, the culture, and especially the kind and generous people.
Also, whenever the leaders of my country say there’s somepl
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jan 03, 2013 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)
Elyse  Walters
Geee --How did I not mark this gem?

Lisa --(who is reading it now) ...just reminded me! Thanks Lisa -- Hope you are enjoying it!

I read it twice, and own it!

Its the type of book I'm in the mood for 'now' ....(looking through old books that I own) ...

Question to readers:
Any suggestions for 'other' books similar in 'feeling' and or story? to "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter Sweet"? Something I 'haven't read?
I'm all ears!!!


Jan 09, 2013 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
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet hit my sweet spot! Ford skillfully melds a Chinese boy's experiences in 1940s Seattle, the reprehensible internment of Japanese during WWII, and a love story. Involving and satisfying. ...more
Mar 22, 2011 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
Oct 08, 2008 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
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful love story in wartime USA. I had no idea how the Japanese were treated in the USA during the war, but of course it was no different from how other countries treated the enemies that lived among them. The only thing I didn't like was that Henry was portrayed as an 80 year old while he was only 56 in the story. ...more
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.
aPriL does feral sometimes
I enjoyed 'Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet' by Jamie Ford. It is deceptively low-key and emotionally even-tempered despite the controversial subject matter.

The novel is about certain painful intersections of time, place and cultures, specifically 1942 and 1986. Those years are seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old Chinese-American boy at first, and then of a 56-year-old widower, both of whom are Henry Lee. Henry Lee was born in and lived his entire life in Seattle, Washington State, in
May 16, 2012 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.
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
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
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm always seeing those posts on Facebook of kids of different cultures and races playing together, hugging each other and only seeing what they love. These are messages to the wider world that adults shouldn't really be imposing their racist, prejudicial fears on their kids. Henry and Keiko are 2 such beautiful little souls. In 1942, while the world is fighting and killing each other these two are just managing to get through the day without being picked on, smacked around or abused because one ...more
Feb 12, 2009 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.
Sep 17, 2009 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
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
I wanted so much more from this book.........but sadly I just did not get it. This could have been a wonderful historical novel but it ended up being a cute love story and perhaps I expected too much from the book in the first place and therefore was disappointed with the read.

I was really looking forward to this book because it was about a period of US history in World War 2 involving the detention of US citizens of Japanese background which I knew very little about and was looking forward to t
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.
May 10, 2010 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
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the whole book.....don’t know why it took me so long to read a 290 page novel, the only reason being is to savor the process. I truly love historical novels, especially this particular era, as it was the one I grew up in. I remember as a young girl, our family driving by Manzanar in Owens Valley, California, as we lived nearby, and my folks explaining to us what the camp was about...... not until I was older did the significance of this have any meaning to me. Ford does a marvel ...more
Oct 19, 2008 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. ...more
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Jamie Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to win the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Jamie’s work has been published in 34 languages. Also, because Jamie feels weird writing about himself in the 3rd person, he’s going to say…

Hi, this is me.

Not a publicist. Not some weird aggregated bit of

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