The Lonely Hearts Hotel
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.
My reading experience:
An unlikely story about two abandoned babies left in the unstable, deeply brutal hands of the orphanage run by the Order of the Sisters of Mercy in the winter of 1910. The unrelated boy and girl both experience poverty, hunger, humiliation, regular beatings, and abuse. But despite this or possibly because of this, their special ability to bring magic and happiness to their peers with their wild imagination and ability to perform tricks leads them to making a marriage vow at the young age of 13.
“Their little brains were not allowed to amuse themselves or to dally happily in the magical Elysium of the mind that was childhood”.
This is an enchanting read with a kaleidoscope of characters and moments enhanced by O’ Neills favourable style of using copious similes and analogies in her descriptive prose.
“Rose passed a tree in the park that was growing tot the side so much that it was almost parallel to the ground. It was like a consumptive young lady reclining on a chair. The leaves were like poems that had fallen to the ground”.
On this journey we arrive in the Depression era and are then whisked through a dark opium fuelled underworld of prostitution and show-business.
“Every day the average person will witness six miracles. But it isn’t that we don’t believe in miracles – we just don’t believe that miracles are miracles. There are so many miracles all around us”.
It is truly compelling and enthralling; it was hard to put this book down such were the insightful observations and medley of language. With mentions of Victor Hugo and Charles Baudelaire, it is very much the picture of dilettante Bohemians with their drama and love of the aesthetic.
“There was something so generous about her personality. She spent her personality wildly. Spend spent her personality like a man on a winning streak in a casino. She tossed her personality out onto the table recklessly – like poker chips”.
This marvellous and fascinating story will be one that stays with you – its incredible ending bringing goosebumps that will come back every time you think of it. It is a tale so visually inspiring you will feel as though you have just watched a movie.
I was given this book free from NetGalley and have provided a review on Goodreads and Amazon.