Tag Archives: World War 2

Secrets of a Charmed Life – Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

  • Source: Library – Friend’s of the Library Bookstore
  • Genre: Fiction – Historical, WW2, England,

Growing up in the East End of London during the start of WW2, Emmy Downtree took more responsibilities than a typical 15-year-old. Acting as a mother to her half-sister Julia all the while dreaming of becoming a wedding dress designer. Emmy had just taken on a part-time job at the local wedding dress store when events were speeding up in the war. Children were being evacuated from their homes and being transported to the countryside to live with foster families as the war raged on in London. After receiving a letter from her former employer, Emmy returns to London with Julia in tow. Not knowing that their return would be the day of the infamous blitz. Divided and alone, Emmy must take her own future into her own hands. But who will she be? Emmy Downtree or Isabel Crofton?

* * * * * * * * * * *

I could not put down this book. It was written so beautifully. The rage, resentment and anger Emmy felt towards her mother influenced so many of her decisions. Her love-hate relationship with being Julia’s guardian. Loving and taking her of her much younger sister, all the while wanting to spread her own wings and fly away from the life their mother had provided for them in the East End. During her journey, Emmy learned so much about her own history through accidental meetings and occurrences. The characters felt so real. We never learned in school that children where separated from their families all throughout the war. Children sent to England from other countries, children sent from London the countryside, all hoping to find safer land and shelter from the war above their heads. This is a book about the war, but moreso about one family’s experiences, losses and discoveries as a result of the war.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Review

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Release Date: January 27th, 2009

A NovelFirst Line: Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel.


What caught my interest about this book is that it covers an area of US history that is often neglected in high schools. The story of what happened to Japanese Americans living in the United States during World War 2.

The story is based on true events. In 1986, the Panama Hotel uncovered hundred of materials that had been boarded up and forgotten in the basement. When the US military began evacuating Japenese Americans and moving them into the internment camps, many family stored their most valuable possessions in the basements of churches, hotels, etc. with hopes of returning one day to reclaim their belongings.

The story opens on the day when this great historical find is discovered and boxes are being brought out of the hotel basement.

The main character Henry Lee is witness to these events, and the sight of a small parasol leads him into a trip to his past, of growing up Chinese in Seattle in 1942. The chapters jump back and forth between 1942 and 1986. From the chapters of Henry’s past, we learn about his struggles with racism, with bullies at his “all-white” school and trying to understand his parents who force him to “speak his American” and no longer speak Chinese. During those trips to the past, we understand the relevance of the small parasol the day Keiko is introduced into the storyline. She is a Japanese American, working the lunch time cafeteria shift with Henry as part of their scholorship to attend the private school. The chapters follow the lives of Henry and Keiko as they try to make sense of the climate of animosity, tension and hatred all because of a person’s nationality and heritage.

The book is beautifully written, and I felt transported to 1942 Seattle walking with Henry and Keiko, living their adventures with them. I finished the book in only a couple of days, I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. My only complaint about the book is that the ending seemed to wrap up a little too neatly and didn’t really fit with the flow of the rest of the story. I did enjoy seeing the parallels between the families in the family. The relationship between Henry and his father, Henry and his son, Marty. The story discusses a very important part of US history that I think recieved only a footnote mention in my high school. It is something the US should be ashamed of and make amends for. I’m glad there is a book like this out there to shed light on this part of our history and in a way that is real and unbiased.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford
Ballantine Books, Jan. 27th, 2009
ISBN 0345505330
285 pages


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