I thoroughly enjoyed Jamie Ford‘s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The characters felt believable and many were endearing. I particularly enjoyed Sheldon the sax player. He was comic relief as well as a warm and caring adult in Henry’s otherwise cool and abrasive adult-dominated world.
The time and place depicted in Hotel is similar to the one in The Jade Peony. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favourite between the two. The historical details and evocative descriptions in each are convincing. As I read Jade Peony awhile back and don’t have a copy with me, direct comparisons and an intelligent, rather than impulsive, choice is not possible.
I was pulled along through Hotel by the love story of Keiko and Henry. As much as I love a happy ending, I was glad Ford stopped short of tying up all the loose ends. Although the long-lost love is found, we aren’t entirely sure about how they will move forward after such a long time. The one note which sang a little too sweetly for me, was the quick and complete acceptance of this other love by Henry’s son. Adult children are notoriously loyal to their birth parents. I’d like think an adult son would support his despondent and grieving father but don’t quite.
Although I read this novel for my adult book club. I think it would make a solid addition to a 9-12 school library and is of particular interest for teachers of World War II history and discussions on racism, politics and human rights.