Title: The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Author: Heather O’Neill
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by Penguin Audiobooks
# of Pages: 391
Buy it*: Amazon
(From Goodreads) 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.
Rating (1-5, 5 is exceptional)
Quality of Writing
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill is a whimsical tale of abuse, love, and loss, set in the Great Depression. When two orphans meet in a Montreal orphanage, they form an instant connection. Falling in love, they’re separated during their teen years, only to find one another once they’re all grown up. Rose and Pierrot, both wildly talented, follow their dreams through poverty and riches, living a life that is both dramatic and tantalizing.
So . . . I’m on the fence with this book! The first half of the book was a lot of fun. The writing style was playful and quirky, even when discussing serious topics. It drew me in immediately, and I enjoyed learning about the early lives of the young orphans. The second half of the book had me scratching my head, thinking, “What in the world am I reading?” The book was still okay and entertaining enough, but my opinion changed quite a bit from the first half to the last half of the book.
I enjoyed the writing style of the book. It reminded me a lot of Lincoln in the Bardo, but less chaotic and easier to follow. The dose of whimsy was a nice change from some of my previous reads, so that was appreciated. The pacing was, for the most part, good. It did drag at times in the second half of the book, but not unbearably so.
The story concept was delightfully quirky. Yes, there were serious topics thrown in like S abuse, child loss, drug abuse (trigger warnings!), but even the serious was painted with a coat of odd. Again, I liked the weirdness of the book, but the storyline was tough to follow at times. It went down the rabbit hole in the second half of the book, and then the plot jumped around all over the place.
While the blurb paints this book to be a bit of a love story, Rose and Pierrot’s relationship never felt all that convincing. Their love felt shallow and simple, a love of convenience, not of true connection. I was never convinced that they were right for each other, and I was never emotionally invested enough in their characters enough to care about whether they were together or apart.
Drug abuse was touched on quite a bit in this book, and I liked the grittiness of it. During the Great Depression, many people found happiness in the form of getting high. I liked how the book portrayed the abuse, and how ultimately, the drug abuse took on a life and power of its own.
The ending of the book was decent. The ending was surprising and dramatic, but again, since I hard time caring about the characters, I didn’t have much of an emotional response to the events as they unfolded.
The characters, odd and weird as they were, just didn’t engage me. They were odd, but not interesting. I wasn’t invested in them, and very few details stand out about each of them. That was disappointing, because engaging characters could have really turned this book around.
The voice acting was wonderful. The narrator’s voice was easy to listen to and handled the material well. I enjoyed listening to her.
Would I recommend this book? Maybe. If you enjoyed Lincoln in the Bardo,you might enjoy this book too.
Have you read The Lonely Hearts Hotel? What did you think of the character development? Did you like the book?
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