The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill | Book Review [slight spoilers]

5/17/2020


Have you ever wanted a novel that has the writing style of The Night Circus but the plot of A Little Life with the magicalness of a Seanne McGuire book but written by Donna Tartt? Then this is the book for you! 

This is a tragic story set around two children, Rose and Pierrot, who are abandoned at an orphanage in 1914. There, they both experience abuse - sexual and physical - and eventually leave to forge their own paths, yet they're always hoping they'll find each-other again. In their eyes, they're each-others first loves. Nothing will ever compare to the other, it's fate. This novel has an undertone of magical realism as both the main characters have somewhat magical abilities, like juggling and dancing, but that's never a front-and-centre part of the story. Instead it's carried behind the plot of Rose wanted to start her own circus, and Pierrot becoming a bugler. 

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is the definition of quirky, and because of that, I'm not sure whether I enjoyed it. I had previously DNF'd the entire thing, but seemingly had a 'I hate myself' moment and decided to finish it via audiobook as my favourite narrator Julia Whelan was the voice behind the story. This entire book had too much juxtaposition. It was too depressing, and I never fully came to care for either of the characters as they were both too.. cold. I always felt like I was an arms length away from the story, as though the author was purposefully not allowing me to be swept up into the magic.


My biggest issue with the book was how much sexual content there was throughout this novel, and no, I'm not talking about some smutty kind. It felt as though every single sexual encounter the character had was either the miserable self loathing kind, or the type that left my hands feeling dirty. If I hear the word 'cunt' one more time in my lifetime, it'll be too soon. I hated how easily swayed both Rose and Pierrot were when it came to anything sexual, it felt like both were just constantly horny and willing to compromising everything about themselves for a quick thrill. As harsh as it sounds, it seemed like most of the time the author was writing just for the sake of writing. Most of the novel felt like icky filler with the backdrop of the great depression being an excuse for the awful things the characters were both going through/doing. Even when (spoiler ahead) they finally found each other, it was still a constant string of depressing filler. This book had no hope whatsoever, at no point in the book was there hope or light or happiness. Each part brought a new reason to be unhappy, for both me and the characters. 

Sexual abuse, self loathing, drug abuse, miscarriage, prostitution, rape, drug abuse, still born, depression, still born, death. That was basically the string of events throughout this novel. It was lonely, yes, but not in any poetic type of way. Just literal torture porn. 

I've been really negative about the plot, but I do want to add that the author is a very talented writer. Her way with words was the only thing that kept me going, which is ironic but true. She writes beautifully, like lyrical poetry, and I'm madly in love with the way she can describe practically anything with beauty. The plot just really wasn't for my book palette. 

To summarise, weirdly, The Lonely Hearts Hotel felt like a poem that had been stretched out into a 350+ page novel with no rhythm or reason. It was miserably pointless. Which is all the more depressing as I found this signed copy at a library sale. Did you love this novel? Let me send this to you! Save me from it's miserable aura. (No, but really, someone ought to have this who loves the author.)

I can't in good faith recommend this book despite the beautiful style of writing. I would read more by the author, but would never ever pick up this book again. Forgive me, O'Neill. 


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