1986, The Panama Hotel The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago.
When Judith @ Leeswammes Blog saw that I was reading Garden of Stones (the review of which is scheduled for February) she suggested that if I was interested in the topic I should read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Unfortunately for Garden of Stones I was reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet when I got around to writing a review. At the time of reading Garden of Stones I had really enjoyed it, but it pales in comparison to Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
I found Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet felt rather authentic, especially during the war years. In some sense the story seemed not so much a war novel as a romance.
A beautiful romance novel too. There was the level of uncertainty of first love, a sort of is this love feeling. At the same time Henry really had great conviction, even when everything was against his love he still held on, he never really let Keiko go. In a way this makes the end of the war a bit of an anti-climax. (highlight for spoiler) It seemed at odds that Henry wouldn’t wait longer for Keiko. If his letter was returned especially she still might come to find him, but instead he gives up on her
Henry was the perfect character to explore the war element from because he could see lots of different sides as a Chinese-American in love with a Japanese-American. He wasn’t completely embedded in any of these perspectives but you could gain a sort of empathy for conflicting views which you wouldn’t have gained from seeing one perspective in detail. I would have liked to see the interment camps in a little more detail but from seeing the changes the Japanese citizens would return to meant that as a reader you can imagine longer-term effects.
In shot I’m glad I started my year on this book. Here’s to hoping 2013 brings lots more great reads.
If you have reviewed this book please leave me a link in comments and I will add it here