Goodreads Summary– 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.
The writing- I do not think I have ever read such a beautiful and quotable book. My copy is full of tabs so that I can reference passages that I loved. Heather O’Neill handles difficult topics in such a respectful and powerful way. She also manages to make a story that can be difficult to read somehow beautiful and magical.
The characters- Every character in this book is perfectly flawed. They are real, gritty and so believably human. I thoroughly enjoyed this take on star crossed lovers. There was a particular allure to both of the main characters, and much like many of the sides characters, I found myself drawn to them. I know I will be thinking about Rose and Pierrot for years to come. Rose was really the stand out character for me. In a lot of ways she was a feminist. She fought her way in to a man’s world, and refuse to hide in the shadows.
The setting- It was interesting to read a book set in Montreal during the great depression. I could picture the atmosphere so perfectly in my mind, which is a credit to Heather O’Neill’s writing. The juxtaposition between the gorgeous and dreamy setting and the struggles that Rose and Pierrot face was captivating.
Sexually explicit– If sexual explicit talk and language offends you or makes you uncomfortable than I would avoid this book. There were times where I felt it was unnecessary.
“Perhaps the most dangerous people in the world are the ones who believe in right and wrong but what they ascribe to as “right” and “wrong” is completely insane. They are bad with the conviction that they are good. That idea is the impetus behind evil.”
“Women were still strange and inscrutable creatures. Men didn’t understand them. And women didn’t understand themselves either. It was always a performance of some sort. Everywhere you went, it was like there was a spotlight shining down on your head. You were on a stage when you were on the trolley. You were being judged and judged and judged. Every minute of your performance was supposed to be incredible and outstanding and sexy.
You were often only an ethical question away from being a prostitute.”
“Men were taught to have so much pride, to go out into the world and make something of themselves. This Depression was deeply humiliating. Since women were taught that they were worthless, they took poverty and hardship less personally.”
I have seen this novel compared to the Night Circus and I just want to make a few points about that. They are both very atmospheric but I believe that is where the similarities end. I would not pick this book up expecting it to be like the Night Circus. It is much darker, and the circus element is in no way similar. In the Lonely Hearts Hotel, there is a focus on clowns and chorus girls. It really is more of a theater production than a circus. There is no real magic. Both books are excellent but I wanted to make sure you were aware they are not alike. It is a pet peeve of mine when books are marketed as similar to a popular book when they are not.