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Unusual historical setting
Jamie Ford fans will relish his new book, which contains many of the same themes as Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but which is very different in time period, characters and plot. Once again, it revolves around the Asian community on the West Coast and the difficulties of the immigrant/first-generation experience. I liked it for the amazing historical detail and the unusual setting (orphanage in the early 20th century, Depression era), and it also contains many of the emotional elements of his first novel: a little over the top for me at times but compelling and wistful.
An engaging read
This is Jamie Ford’s second novel, and I liked it even better than his first, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.” I can see that he will become a popular and accomplished author. He is gifted with style and story-telling ability.
Mary Q. (Greeley, CO)
Songs of Willow Frost
Like the first novel, this one is set in the Seattle area in the past, this time during the early 1920s and the Depression, and again has Chinese-Americans as the main characters. The story centers on young William and his mother Liu Song, a singer who later becomes a famous actress known as Willow Frost. Ford presents us with an emotional roller-coaster ride as William deals with life in the orphanage and tries to match up his image of the movie star with the memories of his mother, and as Liu Song does whatever she feels she must to keep her son and to protect him from his father.
This book is definitely a good choice for book club discussions, and it is one that will stay with me for a long time.
I reacted to Jamie Ford's second novel exactly the way I did to his first: I LOVED it! Though the stories are very different, I found Songs of Willow Frost to be quite similar to Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in terms of the author's unique voice and my emotional response. I learned a great deal about that time in history (1920s-1930s), and I completely fell in love with the well-defined characters. I'll miss them. I would highly recommend this wonderful book to, really, anyone who loves to read, and definitely to book groups for the wealth of discussion topics throughout the book.
Teresa M. (Naples, FL)
songs of willow frost
I really wanted to like this book, as I loved the author's first book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. However, I had a hard time getting into and finishing the book. Ford obviously did his research on Seattle in the 20's and 30's, but I felt all the details bogged down the story. There were too many historical flourishes. I loved the character William and learning about orphanages, but this book just didn't flow for me. I didn't dislike the book, but didn't love it either.
Maggie S. (Durango, CO)
Songs of Willow Frost
The Songs of Willow Frost is a poignant story about family, tradition, and what we do for love. A young Chinese American woman and her son must cope with the hardships of the Great Depression, both together and apart. The combination of setting and characters creates a world of believable and sympathetic humanity. I very much enjoyed the author's first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but this one touched me more. Highly recommended.
Charlene M. (Murrells Inlet, SC)
Songs of Willow Frost
Jamie Ford's story, Songs of Willow Frost, of a Chinese American orphan William Eng's life during the depression, the sketchy memories of his life with his mother, and the eventual search for her because of a brief glimpse and the unforgettable voice of a woman performing on Movietone Follies at a local theater, is both unique and heart wrenching.
Cecile G. (Mansfield, TX)
The Songs of Willow Frost
Jamie Ford is bringing Chinese difficulties during the years of WWI and the depression to light in his novels Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review another fine novel by such a promising author. The characters in Willow Frost are described sympathetically. I felt that the vocabulary used by William Eng was too mature for a young child , especially reared in an orphanage. Having said that, I was drawn to the story line and found it a good read for book clubs. The novel gives information regarding actors, and especially the hardships of persons during the depression so desperate that they are forced to leave their children in the care of strangers not knowing their fate just to feed and provide a place to give shelter. I feel the story line would appeal to women mostly. Good luck in the publication.
Linda J. (Manchester, MO)
Songs of Willow Frost
Hard to Put This Book Down!
William Eng's last memory of his mother was seeing her taken from their apartment after he found her unconscious in the bathtub. He was five years old, and was spirited away to Sacred Heart Orphanage where now, at the age of 12, he has never given up hope of finding her.
Set in Seattle, WA during the depression years, "Songs of Willow Frost" by Jamie Ford, tells the poignant story of 12-year old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy whose last memory of his mother was when he was five years old and found her semi-conscious in their bathtub. She was taken to the hospital and he was spirited away to Sacred Heart Orphanage where he has never given up hope of finding her again.
On an outing to a movie theater, Eng believes that moment has occurred when he sees the woman he believes to be his mother singing on the screen. Her name had been Liu Song. Now, she is Willow Frost.
He sees where she will be performing live and decides to run away from the orphanage and go to her. His friend, Charlotte, a blind girl at the orphanage, wants to go with him, and together, they sneak out and make their way to downtown Seattle, teeming with unrest because of the depression.
Ford weaves Liu Song's back story into William's present day life with vivid descriptions of Chinatown and Chinese traditions.
With the first sentence, "William Eng woke to the sound of a snapping leather belt and the shrieking of rusty springs that supported the threadbare mattress of his army surplus bed," he draws readers in and never lets them down.
The theme of a parent separated from his or her son or daughter could easily become maudlin, but Ford never lets this happen. He strikes the right balance, while never tipping his hand as to how their story ends.