The Lonely Hearts Hotel
By Heather O’Neill
Riverhead Books, Hardcover, 9780735213739, February 7, 2017, 400pp.
The Short of It:
Something magical lurks within these characters but they can’t quite escape their past.
The Rest of It:
Two babies are left to be raised in an orphanage in 1914. As they grow older, it’s obvious that they each possess their own, unique talents. Pierrot & Rose are sent to perform all over town while the orphanage benefits from these performances but when Pierrot is adopted after enduring years of sexual abuse at the hands of one of the nuns, Rose is left wondering why he’s left her without a word about where he’s gone.
The story follows Pierrot and Rose as they move into adulthood and unfortunately, the lives they lead are not easy ones. The story is quite dark but there is a fanciful feel to it which makes the story somewhat easier to read. They each find themselves doing whatever is needed in order to survive. For Pierrot, that’s stealing and for Rose that’s prostitution and pornography. In her mind, performance is always front and center. Her dreams of starting her own company begin and falter. She’s really a lost soul but just hasn’t realized it yet.
I’ve said to a few others that this book reminds me of The Night Circus and it does, in that it has clowns and dancers and haunting piano music playing out in the background. Visually, the author did a great job of setting the stage. However, it’s a very sad story. Rose’s desperation to be rich and famous eclipses nearly everything else. Pierrot’s love for Rose is so great that he makes the ultimate sacrifice for her.
I enjoyed The Lonely Hearts Hotel but there were moments where I wasn’t sure where the author was going with the story. Rose, is cold-hearted in my opinion and too full of herself which made the last third of the book hard to finish. There was quite a bit of back and forth and at some point, I felt as if the author wanted more of the fanciful, pretend world that the characters enjoyed when they were younger but that it was difficult to work it back into the story.
Some parts I enjoyed immensely but I did have some mixed feelings about Rose. I recommend this book to readers who like the dark, tragic side of love with a bit of whimsy thrown in.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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