Review: The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

hotelPublisher: Riverhead Books

Publication Year: 2017

Length: 389 pages

Synopsis (from inside cover):

**I usually post the Goodreads synopsis in my reviews, but this is one of those books where the synopsis on Goodreads practically gives away what happens at the end, so I’d advise not reading that one unless you don’t mind spoilers**

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their talents emerge, earning them both adoration and hatred. Pierrot is a piano prodigy; scrappy Rose can light up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. While forced to travel around the city performing clown routines to raise funds for their orphanage, the children fall in love with each other. They also make plans for a sensational future together, dreaming of the most provocative circus show the world has ever seen.

When they are separated as teenagers, Rose and Pierrot are devastated. Rose becomes the nanny of two children almost as incorrigible as she is, and Pierrot is taken in by a kindly old man who encourages his talent. But this is the Great Depression, and when their lives crumble individually beneath them, both Rose and Pierrot escape into the city’s underbelly. Dabbling in sex, drugs, and theft in order to get by, neither knows whether the other has survived. But the memories of each other–and of their extraordinary shared ambitions–keep them searching and fuel their determination to succeed. These two are no ordinary criminals, and if they ever hit the New York stage, neither the theater nor the alleys will ever look the same.

Review (No Spoilers!!)


Where do I begin with this book? Let me start, I suppose, by saying that I LOVED this book. It’s probably the best one I’ve read all year. I’m almost sad that I checked this out of the library; I want it permanently on my shelf so I can read it over and over again. This book made me feel ALL of the feels. I was happy, I was sad, I wanted to laugh sometimes and cry other times, and I fell in love with these characters and wanted to just protect them and keep them safe from all the bad things happening to them because they were just so cute and wonderful.

The two main characters, Rose and Pierrot, are really what made this book for me. They were both so real to me as I read this. I could picture everything they did clearly and by the end of the book, they felt like they were old friends of mine. Rose is so incredible, and there were so many admirable qualities about her, I wanted to be her for a lot of this book, as she went on this incredible internal journey of growth. She was fearless and carefree and just went around trying to be herself, even though her circumstances didn’t always allow it, and I really loved that. Pierrot, too, was wonderful. I could totally understand why and how Rose would fall in love with him, and I kind of had a little bit of a book-crush on him the whole time. Of course, they both had their flaws as people, but I liked that they had those: they were three dimensional characters, like real people, just trying to get by during a difficult period in history, when the odds are already stacked against them.

I also hardcore shipped Rose and Pierrot together from almost the beginning of the novel. Of course, that was probably intended, since it was a love story, but I hate it when I read books where I know that two characters are supposed to end up together, but I just don’t see it or I don’t think they’re a good match for each other. That didn’t happen at all with this book, and I loved that I got to just squeal with excitement every time something good happened for Rose and Pierrot’s relationship, and sigh with exasperation every time something happened that kept them apart.

Now, this book was surprisingly darker than I had originally thought it would be, so that’s something to keep in mind before you read it. The very first page features the rape of a young girl, and there’s a lot of description of similar situations, along with molestation, prostitution, drug use, and abusive relationships throughout the rest of the book. I didn’t necessarily mind the dark themes and I thought it added a lot to the grittiness of the plot and the struggles Rose and Pierrot went through, but it’s something to note before you pick it up if you don’t enjoy reading about those types of things. I’ve also heard this book compared to The Night Circus, but though it’s been a long while since I’ve read that book, Lonely Hearts was much, much darker than I remember The Night Circus to be.

If there’s one thing that did really annoy me with this book, it was part of O’Neill’s writing style. For the most part, I really enjoyed it and she used a ton of beautiful language to describe the scenery and the characters, which also really added to my enjoyment of the book. HOWEVER. Part of that “beautiful language” included her using similes at least two times a page, which was quite distracting in the beginning of the novel. Some of the similes didn’t even make sense, and while the imagery was nice and all, it just inhibited the flow of the story. As the book went on though, I started getting used to it, and while it’s not something that greatly impacts my thoughts/overall review, it was an annoyance I thought was worth mentioning.

Overall though, The Lonely Hearts Hotel was a great read that blended together historical fiction with romance with what-felt-like-magical-realism-even-though-there-was-no-magic in this perfect story that was so easy to get lost in. I don’t post spoilers in my reviews, obviously, but the ending was so satisfying, and this book on a whole left me happy that I read it, even though I was sad and heartbroken and so many other things as I read it. For a random pick off a library shelf (which is how I found this book), I didn’t do so bad.

Rating: 5 Stars


As always, feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought, or if it sounds like something you would read!