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category: Fiction
published: Feb 2017

The Lonely Hearts Hotel

A Novel

by Heather O'Neill

reviews: 1
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0 of 5
0 ratings
list price: $11.99
also available: Hardcover Audiobook Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Feb 2017

From the two-time Giller Prize shortlisted author, a dazzling circus of a novel set in the seductive underside of Montreal and New York between the wars

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. One is a girl named Rose; the other, a boy named Pierrot. Each display rare gifts that bring them adoration and hatred. As they are made to travel around the city performing clown routines to raise funds for the orphanage, they make plans for a sensational future. They are separated as teenagers and sent off to work as menial servants, but both soon find themselves escaping into the criminal world, participating in the vicious and absurd and perverted underbelly of Montreal and New York City between the wars. They search for each other, and one night, under the snowflakes, they reunite, and the underworld will never look quite the same. With all the storytelling skill and magical language for which she is known, Heather O’Neill dazzles us with a new tale of motherless gangsters, drug addicted pianists, radicalized chorus girls and a city whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss.

About the Author

Heather O'Neill

HEATHER O’NEILL is a novelist, short-story writer and essayist. Her work, which includes Lullabies for Little Criminals, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and Daydreams of Angels, has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize in two consecutive years, and has won CBC Canada Reads, the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and the Danuta Gleed Award. Born and raised in Montreal, O’Neill lives there today with her daughter.

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Editorial Reviews

“Magical and inventive.”

— Maclean's

“Walks a tightrope between social and magical realism . . . . She grafts Angela Carter-esque fairytale darkness on to her forays into her native Montreal’s gothic underbelly . . . A gritty, giddy fairyground ride of a book [involving] rapture, wonder and an unquenchable faith in the extraordinary.

— <em>Daily Mail</em>

“Heather O’Neill does it again! The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is full of quaking love and true sadness, family rackets, heart attacks, feral cats of all sorts, risky trysts, and reeling abandon. O’Neill’s voice is singular, brave, magical, and bursting with stark beauty.”

— Lisa Moore, Giller-shortlisted author of <em>Caught</em>

“An exuberantly written coming-of-age story ... Flashbulb-bright and memorable ... Nicolas and Nouschka are the beautiful, frozen, fetishised symbols of separatist Quebec. As they try to wrench themselves into being, their story is as entrancing and antic and sensual as a dream”

— The Guardian

“The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is Heather O’Neill’s second novel, and it is the book where she emerges as a fully-formed artist.”

— The Globe and Mail

“Walking the hypnotic line between tragedy and fairy tale. . . . the love story that unfolds is a fable of ambition and perseverance, desperation and heartbreak. . . Big and lush and extremely satisfying; a rare treat.”

— <em>Kirkus Reviews </em><strong>(starred review)</strong>

“The writing in Daydreams of Angels is characteristically crisp and playful, but with an undercurrent of cruelty that only amplifies each story’s beating heart.”

— National Post

“A dazzling leap forward. . . . O’Neill writes like a sort of demented angel with an uncanny knack for metaphor.”

— Toronto Star

“O’Neill’s unique strength as a prose stylist has always been in the strength of her individual sentences, and in The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, the way she wields an image feels less like style than superpower.”

— National Post

“[These stories are] united by the now-unmistakable O’Neill stamp: compassionately drawn characters from society’s fringes acting out tales of hardship, resilience and sometimes redemption, all told in deceptively simple prose - nobody, but nobody, does simile quite like O’Neill - that at its best attains the level of music.”

— Montreal Gazette

“In a love story of epic proportions, O’Neill’s excellent historical novel plumbs the depths of happiness and despair. . . . This novel will cast a spell on readers from page one.”

— <em>Publishers Weekly</em> (starred review)

“A fairy tale laced with gunpowder and romance and icing sugar, all wrapped round with a lit fuse. Each of Heather O’Neill’s sentences pricks or delights. If you haven’t read her other books, start with this one and then read all of the rest.”

— Kelly Link, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist Get in Trouble

“O’Neill is an extraordinary writer, and her new novel is exquisite. . . .O’Neill has taken on sadness itself as a subject, but it would be terribly reductive to say that this book is sad; it’s also joyful, funny, and vividly alive.”

— Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

“The novel’s success resides in its deeply loveable protagonists navigating a world of brutality and melancholy. . . . Grotesqueness and pleasure run together in The Lonely Hearts Hotel.”

— <em>Quill & Quire</em>

“O’Neill is a mistress of metaphor and imagery…This is brilliant tragicomedy…in a melancholy love story that brings to life the bygone days of theatrical revues.”

— <em>Booklist </em><strong>(starred review)</strong>

“Heather O’Neill’s style is laced with so much sublime possibility and merciless reality that it makes me think of comets and live wires and William Blake’s “The Tyger.” Between prose like that and a story like this, you have a book that raises goosebumps and the giddiest of grins.”

— Helen Oyeyemi, author of What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

“Heather O’Neill is just getting better and better.”

— <em>The Globe and Mail</em>

 “[The Lonely Hearts Hotel] is a voyage across Montreal, from realms of innocence and districts of longing to zones of cruelty. . . . It’s a sprawling saga that combines a fairy-tale narrative with touches of social history, following two orphans in their struggles against a hostile world.”

— <em>National Post</em>

“Art, love, imagination-these values are held aloft in O’Neill’s novel.”

— <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em>

“The Lonely Hearts Hotel is gaudy, rowdy and magnificent.”

— <em>Winnipeg Free Press</em>

“Fans of the Canadian author’s swirling, lyrical prose will fall for this melancholic love story set in gritty 1920s Montreal.”

— <em>Elle</em> (Canada)

“It would be hard to overstate here just how the good the writing is in The Lonely Hearts Hotel. For it is stunningly, stunningly good.”

— <em>Toronto Star</em>

“The Lonely Hearts Hotel sucked me right in and only got better and better, ultimately becoming much tougher, wiser than I was prepared for. I began underlining truths I had hungered for but never before read. By the end I was a gasping, tearful mess.”

— Miranda July, author of The First Bad Man and No One Belongs Here More Than You

“This simultaneously heart-breaking and life-affirming novel depicts the range of the human experience through the eyes of its almost preternaturally charismatic hero and heroine… O’Neill’s prose is gorgeous, with arresting imagery.”

— <em>Library Journal</em>(starred review)

“A larger-than-life, gritty love story that reads like a fable. . . . The greatest strength of O’Neill’s work, however, is her wholly unique narrative voice, which is at once cool and panoramic, yet shockingly intimate and wisely philosophical. The novel brims with shimmering one-liners.”

— <em> Boston Globe</em>

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Reader Reviews

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Beautifully written

This story is intriguing, sad, beautiful, and, ultimately, a little bit tragic. But, the writing – oh, the writing! I’m absolutely besotted with O’Neill’s writing style. Her style is almost poetic, and her imagination shines through her imagery:

He doused his words in alcohol and set them on fire.

His white carnation boutonniere looked like a crumpled-up love poem.

This is a roller coaster of emotion and a page turner. It’s well worth the read. I strongly encourage readers to try, as best they can, to get through as much of this book as possible before giving up on it.

Also, remember that not all stories involve people with perfect lives. This book is quite honest about life in the early 1900’s – poverty, abuse, drugs, women being treated like property, etc. I’ve seen a lot of reviews where people quit early in the book because of all the despair, but the despair is part of life and part of the beauty of this book.

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