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

March 30, 2011


“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford (Website | Twitter) is a fictional book set during a volatile time in American history. Jamie Ford has created intriguing characters telling an extraordinary story.

  • 301 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0345505344

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
My rating for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – 4
Buy Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from*

More Books by Jamie Ford*


“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford is a very good book, easy to read, written in cinematic detail and vividness. The characters of Henry and Keiko are memorable and very likable.

The book touches on a part of American history which is rarely talked about, the internment camps built for Japanese Americans (not Italians or Germans mind you) during World War II. Those who were put in the camps lost all their possessions, wealth, businesses, social standing etc.

The story is multi-dimensional, and explores the relationship between a first and second generation Chinese Americans (Henry and his father), second and third generations (Henry and his son) and of course the love story which is the central theme between the Japanese American Keiko, whose family embraces being Americanized, and the Chinese American Henry, whose family tries to stick with the old Chinese traditions.

What bothered me about the book is Henry’s young age and how he was allowed, at the age of 12 or 13, to simply pick up and go for a few days, especially from a very demanding and strict father.
However, that is a minor complaint, the book was a satisfying read about an important and ignored part of American history.

Mr. Ford does an excellent job describing Seattle and its historic buildings as well as historic figures such as Oscar Holden.


Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathering outside the Panama Hotel in Seattle. The hotel has been boarded up since the beginning of WWII and the owner discovered the belongings of Japanese families which were forced to leave to internment camps.

The story continues in the 1940s where Henry’s young mind and small world are a mixed, confused and exciting. Henry’s father, obsessed with the war in China wants Henry to grow up American and send him to the exclusive Rainier Elementary. However, Henry gets picked on when he is not being ignored. At the school Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young American of Japanese descent. A friendship is forged between Henry and Keiko despite curfews, blackouts and FBI raids. When Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp Henry hopes he’ll see her again.

The narration by Henry alternated between 1942 and 1986.

Buy Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from*
More Books by Jamie Ford*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Wrap Up

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford


  • JamiePearsonMarch 30, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I live in Seattle so there has been a bit of publicity around this book, but despite that I hadn’t read any book reviews of it until now. I’m glad you enjoyed it, it sounds like a solid piece of historical fiction.

    Thanks for your review!

    • zoharMarch 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      Mr. Ford uses the city of Seattle as a backdrop in a marvelous way. If you live there I’m sure you’ll enjoy the book even if it’s just from that perspective.

  • lisa :)March 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I’ve seen this book around but didn’t really know much about it! Great review!

  • AthsMarch 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

    It makes me sad about how we have so many books about the camps in Holocaust Europe, and yet very few about the camps in the US. It feels very one-sided and manipulative, though it’s really not. This is a book on my wishlist – glad you enjoyed it. I recently read another book about a child abduction in the 80s (BRINGING ADAM HOME), but that book explained how parents rarely worried about their kids going anywhere. I don’t see how that explains this character going off for days, but just thought I’ll mention.

    • zoharMarch 30, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      I read this book for an online book club and several people said that this was the first they’ve heard of the Japanese American intern­ment camps.

  • SamMarch 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    This one was already on my wishlist. I want to read it even more after your review!

  • Juju at Tales of WhimsyMarch 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Great review. I’ve often wondered about this one 🙂

  • Colleen (Books in the City)March 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I read this recently (haven’t posted my review yet) and enjoyed it. I especially liked the exploration of the impact of immigration on multiple generations.

    great review!

  • BookQuoterMarch 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Oh great to know you like this. I just received it in the mail this week.

  • Kate {The Parchment Girl}March 30, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    This has been on my TBR list for a while. It sounds like a wonderful book. Great review!

  • bookspersonallyMarch 31, 2011 at 6:39 am

    This was recommended to me but I didn’t know much about it – thanks for the review, might follow through on it now.

  • Leslie @ Under My Apple TreeApril 2, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I just got a copy of this one. Sounds like I’m going to love it. I’ve recently started reading more historical fiction which is a switch for me as I’m usually a scifi, future type gal.

  • alyssaApril 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    i don’t like this book its boring to me but that’s just my opinion because i have to read it for English class.

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