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.
My Review of The Lonely Hearts Hotel
The Lonely Hearts Hotel has an unusual writing style, it’s almost like a fairy tale style of explaining what is happening. Little things are described in great detail like the food that they’re eating, or a girl that has so many holes in her stockings “they looked like oil paint on water”.
It’s a magical, almost childlike style but at first I felt disconnected from the characters and their emotions. It did take me a bit of effort to keep going but after the first few chapters I got used to it, and I ended up really enjoying it.
It’s a very adult book though, it starts with Rose and Pierrot as children in an orphanage where they suffer physical and sexual abuse. It’s set during the great depression and a lot of the book is about the things people have to do to survive poverty. There’s a lot of sex in it and heroin addiction plays a large part in the book.
The fairy tale style story telling sometimes felt to me like it was at odds with the darkness in the book. It did stop it from being too depressing and brought a much needed lightness to the story, but at the same time it softened the impact of the abuse and maybe glossed over it a bit.
But the magical style brings the city of Montreal to life, I could almost feel the cold and the poverty, I could see the girls on the streets and picture them in their outfits they were described so well. The story is full of nightclubs, theatres, clowns, make believe and show girls and it sucked me in to it’s world.
I cared about the characters, and the end of the book was hard for me to read because it’s hopeful but so bittersweet. I got that sad feeling I get when I really love a book and I feel like I’ve lost friends when it ends. It’s not one I would want to read if I was already feeling sad!
I received a free copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.