Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication date: February 7th, 2017
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 389
With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.
Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.
Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.
With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.
“No one else could understand what they were saying to each other,
Every word they spoke was a metaphor”
Right off the bat, I’d say The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a complex read not written for everyone. Despite the blurb indicating innocence and a pure love story, The Lonely Hearts Hotel reveals its multiple layers of complexity within its plot and characters leaving us to wonder what the heck is going on in this book.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel started out great for me, gripping me to the story pretty quickly given how HEATHER O’NEILL was indiscreet on teenage rape-induced pregnancies and the sombre situations orphanages find themselves in at the turn of Canada’s 20th century. We’re quickly introduced to two unique orphans with amazing talents in performing arts who happen to be Pierrot and Rose.
The hardships they faced while in the orphanage was insightful enough for me, if it wasn’t for the explicit content surrounding sexual harassment and sexual pleasures in general. The Lonely Hearts Hotel literally borderlined on Erotica with the sexually explicit scenes. And whilst I have nothing against the genre Erotica, I’d have appreciated an initial warning that a lot of sexual content was going to cover the first 40% of the book. That said, this book is certainly for adults and very mature young adults.
The plot itself is pretty good. I love how we got to know more of 1930’s Montreal, Canada. Rarely are historical fiction reads set in this time and place. The Great Depression was used as a setting for what was about to unfold in the two orphan’s lives. The Lonely Hearts Hotel consists of an amazing cinematic prose that makes you feel like you’re watching an obscure movie in your head, but the stiff dialogues was a bit of a turn-off for me.
We also get to read more about Pierrot and Rose’s characteristics and what drives them to be the characters they turned out to be. We see Pierrot’s decline into drugs after leaving the orphanage despite having an immense talent for the piano, and Rose’s attempt in building a life for herself after all her hardships.
O’NEILL writes female characters so well. This is one of my favourite things about The Lonely Hearts Hotel. Throughout the book, it’s pretty adamant how smart Rose in wanting something more out of her life. Her sex as a woman led her to face discrimination every day, and how relevant can we say this statement still is in today’s society? Rose’s character development was truly phenomenal in The Lonely Hearts Hotel and I’m glad that was very well written.
“Being a woman was a trap. Something would bring you down before you turned twenty-three. The only time the world shows you any favor, or cuts you any slack, is during that very brief period of courtship where the world is trying to fuck you for the first time.”
I’d be lying if I said Pierrot and Rose’s love story did not move me. It did, in all its honesty and raw form. The relationship exhibited by them was unique in an era where men only believed women to be good for one thing only. Reading about Pierrot and Rose’s relationship growing and changing throughout the book was a pleasure, but nevertheless a heartbreaking process. The ending was something I never expected to move me, but it did. And for that, I believe The Lonely Hearts Hotel is worth a read.
“[They] would never grow old enough to understand that you only go from one hardship to another. And that the best we can hope from life is that it is a wonderful depression”
Set in a chilling but breathtaking Montreal setting, THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL will bring you on a journey of finding love in a desperate time of hardships and desperation, in an attempt to save yourself.
Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.