‘The Lonely Hearts Hotel’ by Heather O’Neill – eARC Book Review

Blurb 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 realised world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell. 

Review

The first page of this book opens with the rape of a child. From there it leads to more abuse, sexual assault, rape and just pretty much all manner of horrors that any child or children could ever endure.

But despite all this our two main characters, Rose and Pierrot, feel a connection to each other. They know that their lives will be forever interlinked and young love blossoms. The story then leads on into adulthood with the effects that this horrific childhood had on the two main characters.

I am sorry to say that I did not enjoy this book at all. Had it not been an ARC I would have DNFd it.

I just found it all to be too much.

Instead of filled with nuance and subtlety of pain and suffering, the writing felt crass and as if the book was written for shock value. Sometimes less is more. I became anaesthetised to the suffering of these characters and the situations they found themselves in because of how the book was written.

It is incredibly important to write about the detrimental effects of all manner of abuse on children and how it moulds their adult lives and loves. However this was not the way to do it. This book had wonderful potential and there were moments of magical promise and what might have been….

But unfortunately for me these moments were far too fleeting and therefore could not redeem this book in my eyes.

one star

A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Published: February 2017

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10 thoughts on “‘The Lonely Hearts Hotel’ by Heather O’Neill – eARC Book Review

      1. Oh I find the highly rated reviews of this baffling. I mean okay, if you go in with your eyes wide open to this then you might see merit in it… But I was left feeling quite sickened by it. And it was one of the earlies arcs I read on Netgalley and at the time I sent in my review I was like that’s it, they’ll never accept my request for arcs again but I just couldn’t gloss away what I had read. Much too disturbing

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