The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neil
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.
(3.5, rounded to 3 but maybe 4)
This book. I don’t really know where to start with this book, to be honest. There was a lot to love, and there was a lot of weirdness.
It’s really told in two parts: before official marriage and after official marriage. I loved the after part. Loved it. I have genuinely no complaints about that section. It was super interesting and gorgeous and I would read that part over and over again.
As for the before section, I still really enjoyed it, but I found a lot of it weird. Mainly the focus on sex. I’m not a prude or anything, but it was just,,,, a lot more than I was expecting? From very early on? Like, I enjoyed the overall story and plot of that section, but if there had been about 15 fewer references to sex, I would have been happier, if that makes sense.
But, as for everything else, I have no complaints. I loved the characters and thought they were really lovely. The two main characters, Rose and Pierrot, were both really interesting and I loved the love between the two of them. Their relationship was really sweet and loving. I particularly liked Rose and thought she was such a great character. I would 100% read a book about her being a badass mobster or whatever it is she does in the end. I also really like Poppy and thought she was a really interesting character.
I also loved the plot: two orphans in Montreal during the depression, trying to find themselves. It was really lovely. I loved the focus on performance and thought it was super interesting, and really liked reading about the different acts. I’ve mentioned before that I really like behind-the-scenes aspects of books, and this book had a bit of that which was great.
The setting (Montreal during the depression) was really great as well. I liked the contrasts between the orphanage, then the extreme wealth experienced by both Rose and Pierrot, and then the extreme poverty experienced by both of them, and then their rise (or fall??) back to success. It was really great to see those comparisons explored a bit.
It was also really well-written. O’Neil’s prose is gorgeous, and I’ll definitely be looking into what else she’s written.
So I guess, my only complaint was the (what seemed like, at times) hyper-fixation on sex. All the parts that weren’t related to sex, I really enjoyed.
So those are my thoughts on this book! Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Any similar to mine? Do you plan to read it? Let me know!