The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill
|The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Set in early twentieth century Montreal, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a dark yet vibrant fairytale that will make you laugh, cry, fall in love, be filled with rage, and become part of the company of a tragic cast of clowns in this dizzyingly beautiful book.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: February 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2017
Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Pierrot is a piano prodigy, and 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 show the world has ever seen. Seperated as teenagers and sent off to work during the Great Depression, both descend into the city's underworld - dabbling in sex, drugs, and theft. Will Rose and Pierrot ever reunite? And if they do - what lengths will they go to to make their dream come true? One things for sure - neither nor the theatre no the underworld will ever look the same...
You know when a book is so, so good, you're desperate to finish it and find out the fate of the characters - and yet horrified that the story of the characters you've come to know and love may come to an end? It happens rarely - but when a book like that comes along, it's something to be remembered and treasured. The Lonely Hearts Hotel manages to be all that, and much more. In the past, this author has been referred to as like Angela Carter when referring to her inventiveness. Now for me, a huge Angela Carter fan, finding someone who lives up to her creative genius is no easy feat - but Heather O'Neill is one of the few authors who I would now happily say is a worthy successor to the late Carter, and The Lonely Hearts Hotel is fantastic evidence for exactly why she deserves this accolade.
For me, the best fairy tales are the dark ones -the original Brothers Grimm stories for example, with the beautiful violence, shocking twists and dark undertones that are missing from the saccharine tales often fed to children today. O'Neill captures that wonderfully in The Lonely Hearts Hotel - creating two characters in Rose and Pierrot who accompany the reader throughout the book - and are so well crafted that they'll stay with the reader long after they've turned the final page. All characters are beautifully written, but it's these two leads who really captivate, and their love story leads the reader through the story - through Montreal in the Great Depression, in orphanages, high society, brothels, circuses, drug dens and to the bright lights of New York.
It's a tale of love, but the realities of life are never avoided to make this an overly romantic tale - horrible, horrible things happen to these characters, and the blunt, matter of fact way that O'Neill confronts these issues makes them feel shockingly real to the reader. This also grounds this story well - never letting you forget that, despite the clowns, bright lights and romance, this is a tale about human beings, and all of the baggage, issues and flaws that we come with. It's a mystery how a book filled with so much bleakness can ultimately be incredibly life affirming - but there is something for every reader in this stunning, compelling tale, brought to life by rich, memorable prose from an author at the top of her game. Many thanks to the publisher for the copy.
For further reading I recommend Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter - a collection of her short stories that blend elements of the traditional with her ability to transform the ordinary into the fantastic - something also done more than ably in The Lonely Hearts Hotel
You can read more book reviews or buy The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill at Amazon.com.
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