I received a copy of The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill from Netgalley in returns for an honest review. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t love it. Nonetheless…let’s get into the review. *Trigger warning for sexual abuse, drug use and loss of a child.*
The year is 1914, we’re in an orphanage and we’re following the harrowing story of Rose and Pierrot, a plot of forbidden love woven in between Heather O’Neill’s exquisite writing. In fact, it’s this writing style that kept me invested, or I would have DNF’d within the first twenty pages, curiosity alone kept me reading. I understand WHY Heather O’Neill gave them such a tragic childhoods, but it took up way too much of the book and she took it to an unnecessary extreme. The book features a lot of graphic sexual abuse at the hands of the workers in the orphanages, which is in great detail and builds a really vivid picture in your mind. There’s also graphic depiction of drug use, specifically heroin and miscarriage. For me, it was just really unnecessary. The fact that they were orphans in itself is tragic enough.
That being said, the hope of a happy ending, and it’s this hope that is embodied by the love between Rose and Pierrot, as well as O’Neill’s writing kept me reading until the end. So, you could say, that O’Neill’s writing did exactly what t was supposed to do. In the throws of the Great Depression and World War One, the tragic childhood of these two characters mirrors the context of the setting of Montreal at the time, times were bleak. It’s no surprise that throughout the novel, they find solace in people who should be looking after them, who actually abuse them. They slip through the nets of society.
I liked the emphasis on avant-garde circus-esque performance which again, out star-crossed lovers find salvation in but this wasn’t introduced until at least 60% of the way through the book so it felt a little rushed toward the end, rather than being the main focus of the novel, which I thought it would be according to the blurb.
I did make it to the end, however, and the end was satisfying and I was glad that I managed to finish the story. I was able to appreciate Heather O’Neill’s writing and I’m keen to check out more of her work, though I will wait for reviews from other bloggers I trust first!
An intense, whimsical and thought-provoking read. Just be wary of those trigger warnings!
Thank you lovelies and happy reading! ox