I’ve had a busy Easter but thankfully managed to fit in a few books around all the other stuff that’s been going on! I haven’t got time to write full reviews at the moment, but I wanted to recommend two books I have really enjoyed in this past week or so…
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
It is the 1980s and our protagonist, Henry, has lost his wife to a long and unpleasant illness. Henry finds himself reminiscing as he sights an old parasol being unearthed from the Panama Hotel in Seattle…
Going back 40 years, we find out more about Henry’s childhood, with his strict, prejudiced Chinese father and passive mother. He is forced to speak English to his parents to Americanise himself – yet his parents only speak Cantonese, so this further alienates him from them. He gets bullied at his American school, but when he meets Japanese Keiko, everything changes…
I really loved this book, and I found out a lot about the animosity between the Chinese and Japanese in the war years, and also about how badly the Japanese were treated in America. It was a sad story but I liked the character of Henry and finding out about his past.
My only small complaint is that the intense relationship between Henry and Keiko seemed a little unrealistic as they were both supposed to be just 12 years old.
My rating: 8 out of 10
The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew
It’s 1954 and our narrator Jubie sets off with her family for a holiday to Florida, leaving behind violent, drunk father Bill and taking along their black maid Mary. Jubie has a better relationship with Mary than with her own mother, who is distant and detached, and she is quietly horrified by some of the racist attitudes they face on their trip. We occasionally step back in the narrative to find out about events leading up to the trip, and in doing so we find out more about Jubie’s parents – and some of their own attitudes towards black people.
I really enjoyed this book, and was amazed to find out that this was the author’s first novel at the age of 71! The events reflected some of her own experiences growing up in America and some of what occurred was really disturbing.
One thing I didn’t like about the book was that a lot of minor characters were introduced and then played no real part in the story. But other than this I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My rating: 8 out of 10