A novel about childhood damage and the redemptive power of art from an author three time listed for the Women's Prize and the Giller Prize
'Joyful, funny and vividly alive' Emily St John Mandel
'The Lonely Hearts Hotel sucked me right in and only got better and better . . . I began underlining truths I had hungered for' Miranda July
'Makes me think of comets and live wires . . . raises goosebumps' Helen Oyeyemi
'A fairytale laced with gunpowder' Kelly Link
The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with a difference. Set throughout the roaring twenties, it is a wicked fairytale of circus tricks and child prodigies, radical chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians and brooding clowns, set in an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss.
It is the tale of two dreamers, abandoned in an orphanage where they were fated to meet. Here, in the face of cold, hunger and unpredictable beatings, Rose and Pierrot create a world of their own, shielding the spark of their curiosity from those whose jealousy will eventually tear them apart.
When they meet again, each will have changed, having struggled through the Depression, through what they have done to fill the absence of the other. But their childhood vision remains - a dream to storm the world, a spectacle, an extravaganza that will lift them out of the gutter and onto a glittering stage.
Heather O'Neill's pyrotechnical imagination and language are like no other. In this she has crafted a dazzling circus of a novel that takes us from the underbellies of war-time Montreal and Prohibition New York, to a theatre of magic where anything is possible - where an orphan girl can rule the world, and a ruined innocence can be redeemed.
Heather O'Neill is a novelist, poet, short-story writer, screenwriter, and essayist. Lullabies for Little Criminals, her debut novel, was published in 2007 to international critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, The Girl who was Saturday Night, was longlisted for the Baileys Women's Fiction Prize, and shortlisted for the Giller Prize, as was her collection of short stories, Daydreams of Angels. Her third novel, The Lonely Hearts Hotel was longlisted for the Baileys prize. Born and raised in Montreal, O'Neill lives there today with her daughter.
Heather O'Neill's style is laced with so much sublime possibility and merciless actuality (and vice versa) that it makes me think of comets and live wires and william blake's tyger . . . between prose like that and a story like this, you have a book that raises goosebumps and the giddiest of grins more or less simultaneously — Helen Oyeyemi
Because this book is so filled with delightful things - bold and complex sex; heartache and wickedness and glittering hearts - it would be easy to overlook how finely it is made. 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
O'Neill is an extraordinary writer, and her new novel is exquisite. She 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
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
O'Neill at the height of her literary powers . . . her most book gripping to date . . . Ferociously direct. . . A ravishing novel, that, for all its brutality, retains a childlike appreciation for the fantastic. — Andre Forget, Walrus
A love story of epic proportions...this novel will cast a spell upon readers from page one. — Publisher's Weekly
Walking the hypnotic line between tragedy and fairy tale ...Grotesque and whimsical at once, the love story that unfolds is a fable of ambition and perseverance, desperation and heartbreak. But while Pierrot is unforgettable, the novel belongs to Rose, a woman who - if she cannot carve out space for herself in upstanding daylight - will rise to power in the underworld of night. O'Neill's prose is crisp and strange, arresting in its frankness; much like the novel itself, her writing is both gleefully playful and devastatingly sad. Big and lush and extremely satisfying; a rare treat. — Kirkus
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. It's a little weird and a lot of fun. — Booklist
O'Neill's prose is gorgeous, with arresting imagery. This simultaneously heartbreaking and life-affirming novel depicts the range of the human experience through the eyes of its almost pretenaturally charming hero and heroine . . . This is an original and unforgettable novel. — Library Journal
A romance that's straight out of a strange, prettily twisted fairytale — Psychologies
Award-winning Canadian author Heather O'Neill spins a spell-binding yarn set in the seedy worlds of pre-war Montreal and Prohibition New York . . . There are many cruel forks in the road along the way, but the novel has a magical quality that softens the blows. — Boundless
loved the world weary tone of Heather O'Neill's debut novel Lullabies For Little Criminals (shortlisted for the Orange Women's Prize) and The Lonely Hearts Hotel more than lives up to the promise of her earlier work . . . This novel has a gorgeous, gin-sodden, rain-soaked feel that reminds me of Jean Rhys. — Red
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..."THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL is that rare find: a novel you have never before read anything quite like. O'Neill, a genius at metaphor, and who tackles graphic and delicate topics with rare tenderness and even charm, has created a sweeping story with elements of historical fiction, romance, crime and noir, yet writes in a style that authoritatively claims all terrain in her reach as her own. — Gina Frangello, Boston Globe
An extremely unusual modern fairy tale. It shows us the dark side of how fragile our lives are and how easily damaged. Overall, it was a beautiful, magical love story — Waterstones
To read Heather O'Neill's dazzling new novel is to enter an enchanting and poetic world that is also amusing, troubling and often lascivious. O'Neill's lively style is so filled with vivid descriptions and complex characters that the reader's experience is virtually cinematic. — Washington Post
The Giller-shortlisted author's new novel has all the absurd, frightening, fantastical qualities of a midnight reverie - complete with depressed clowns, dancing bears, lunatic nuns and smitten mobsters - and with a similar power to haunt . . . O'Neill, always an original and enchanting storyteller, is at the height of her powers. The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a feat of imagination, accomplished through the tiny, marvellous details she scatters across the page. — Toronto Star
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 — Daily Mail
Heather O'Neill [is] determined to see wonder in unlikely places . . . I admired the novel's big-heartedness, its defiant affirmation of the whole seedy, sad, beautiful burlesque that is the life of these characters . . . This novel is neither gritty realism nor noir, not Dickens nor commedia dell'arte nor dystopian fairytale, but a little bit of all of them. — Molly McCloskey, Guardian
O'Neill magics up a world that's both lush and brutal. But The Lonely Hearts Hotel also shows us that the chorus girls are turning tricks, the clowns are taking heroin and the dancing children have already seen too much. It's a beguiling mix, with paragraphs you'll want to read over and over to revel in their rightness. — Emerald Street
Art, love, imagination - these values are held aloft in O'Neill's novel . . . it's achingly romantic . . . a feminist fairy tale of sorts . . . the nature of the theatrical spectacle Rose and Pierrot and company have created speaks to the mesmerizing effects of the novel itself — San Francisco Chronicle
Theatrical glitter and a romance that's straight out of a strange, twisted fairy tale . . . O'Neill's magical storytelling is packed with startling images — Mail on Sunday
A harrowing story of abuse, addiction and the loss of innocence. And yet it is charming, lyrical, magical and often funny . . . There is a fragile beauty and childish fascination and even fun within the seediest of her scenes. It reads like a poetic act of rebellion — Anne Cunningham, Sunday Independent