I finished reading Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford a few minutes ago and I wanted to write about it briefly before we discuss it at my book group next week. This novel tells the story of Henry and Keiko, a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl in Seattle during the war years of 1942-45. Told from the point of view of Henry, a widower in his fifties, the story alternates between 1986, when Henry joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel as the belongings of some Japanese families evacuated during the internment are being uncovered, and the war years, during which time the forbidden relationship between Henry and Keiko develops. As the Japanese families are evacuated and relocated to permanent camps, Henry struggles to stay in touch with Keiko, but he faces many obstacles, especially in his relationship with his father. Encouraged by his son, Marty, and Marty's fiancee, Samantha, Henry seeks to reconcile the choices he made as a young boy with the way things have worked out in his life. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, as that is part of the appeal of the novel, not quite knowing what will happen next to foil Henry's plans. I wanted to love this book, I really did. The story was interesting, the characters were interesting, the setting was interesting... but something was just missing. I found the writing style somewhat flat and the story repetitive. Having said that, I think it was a good book club choice, and I wonder what my ladies will think of it. There were many topics for discussion presented in the novel: family responsibilities, relationships between fathers and sons, loss of innocence and first loves, the roles of tradition in a progressive society, just to name a few. While I was going to wait until our discussion before writing, I had time now and wanted to get my own thoughts and responses down before too much time passed and they became confused with the responses of the others in the group. Would I recommend this book? I think the answer is yes, I would, but I would also let the potential reader know that I did not love the book, and that it is not necessary to read and analyze every word carefully to get the gist of the story.
I'm officially on vacation now... See you next week!