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The Lonely Hearts Hotel

A Novel
Written by: Heather O'Neill
Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Length: 12 hrs and 2 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (102 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Set in Montreal and New York between the wars, a spellbinding story about two orphans whose unusual magnetism and talent allow them to imagine a sensational future, from the best-selling, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize-short-listed author.

Exquisitely imagined and hypnotically told, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. Set in the early part of the 20th century, it is an unparalleled tale of abandoned children, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose fortune hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to escape one's origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long their true talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing for the rich, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, both escape into the city's underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs, and theft in order to survive. Ruthless and unforgiving, Montreal in the 1930s is no place for song and dance. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes, the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they'll go to extreme lengths to make those dreams come true. After Rose, Pierrot, and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls hit the stage and the alleys, the underworld will never look the same.

With extraordinary storytelling, musical language, and an extravagantly realized world, acclaimed author Heather O'Neill enchants us with her best novel yet - one so magical there is no escaping its spell.

©2017 Heather O'Neill (P)2017 Penguin Random House LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best novel of 2017

It has been a long time since I’ve read a book that captured the innocence of childhood and the crushing reality of becoming an adult so well. I will reread it many times, just like the first b

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Magical

Best book I’ve read in a very long time, imaginative and magical. Narration was perfect.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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beautiful prose and soothing narration

I loved this book. The prose was enchanting and the story captivating and melancholic in all the right ways. I listened to it on my walks to and from work as well as before naps.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Stay with it

The first bit I was not impressed by and didn’t want to continue. Without giving it away, you should stick with it. The story has a lot of moving parts that do all come together. It was well worth it. Some of the writing and narration was somewhat bland, but again, worth it. The latter half of the novel I found myself wanting to listen more to hear what was going on. Romantic tragedy. Rags to riches (kind of) and a few smaller stories in between. Great overall story.
Thanks!

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  • BDC
  • 2018-12-06

Sad and charming...I didn't want it to end.

It was one of the first books that I was satisfied with the ending. The narration was really perfect, the characters so complex and the plot engaging. You think it's just a story about 2 orphans ...but it's so much more.

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Gorgeous!

The Lonely Hearts Hotel gets compared a lot to The Night Circus, which isn’t totally unfair. However I think that while that book beckons you into the magic, this one swears there is none but then sneaks you a peak, like one of its many prostitutes flipping up her skirts. I would say a better comparison would be like if Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus had a night of passion with Fellini’s film “I Clowns” and left the resulting baby to be raised by Montrealer nuns.

Can you tell that the author’s many similes and metaphors have gotten into my mind? I loved the poetic language, even if it sometimes felt like she was being a bit over eager with her turns of phrase. In the end, my simile fatigue gave way to total enchantment with the characters and the book, even if they made me cry more than once.

Julia Whelan is my absolute favourite audiobook narrator and she knocked it out of the park again!

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very odd...but intriguing

I hated a lot of parts of this book (horrifying sexual moments, a dog fight, drug use). but the ending is extremely poetic. if you start the book, this is one you have to finish.

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Wonderful book

I am a huge fan of Julia Whelan, and wanted to read this book for quite a while. I am french Canadian and wanted to wait for the french translation that was just out last month, because I knew it was going to be a good one (translator and publisher are both great!), but the narrator's choice just convinced me to listen to it instead. What a great 2 weeks of walking to my job listening to this! I was enchanted by this lovely story revealing to me a city that i know well with a complete new perpective. I loved the characters and their tragic but beautiful destiny, and even more Heather O'Neill's style, being at the same time innocent and fierce.

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Heartbreakingly Tragic and Whimsically Humourous

This is a truly brilliant work, both in writing and performance. The narration, by deeply traumatized children, and their unchanging perspective as they grow into adults, is so completely True on the deepest level. The tone reminded me of the sweet, searing ice-pick sound of the electric mandolin. The reading is sublime and totally in keeping with the tone of the novel. The most horrific crimes of abuse by orphanage nuns are told from an almost whimsical perspective, as children so realistically try to interpret the horrors inflicted upon them into stories that explain the egregious behaviour of adults, at whose mercy they survive. It is startlingly beautiful, heartbreakingly honest, and oddly hilarious at times. Those who survive into adulthood are forced into lives of poverty, disenfranchisement, crime, and constant exploitation, and rarely acknowledged as the resourceful and creative survivors that they are. A unique work of art, read with love and understanding of complex characters. Yet, there are few sentimental moments and it is never too difficult to read. The best book I have heard in years, and totally engrossing. I read it in 1 day, then had to go back and read it again. Congratulations, Audible for this production of a great contemporary work of art.

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The Wonderful Sad

One of the saddest story that brilliantly written and read. I usually don’t read the stories about depression era, they make me so sad and depressed.
I don’t know I might lived in that era in my past life!
But when I started this one I couldn’t stop listening.
I just finished it, it feels like I have a hole in my heart💔💔💔

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  • Luke
  • 2017-10-30

A powerfully written and narrated story

This beautifully written story follows two exceptionally talented children, growing up and making there way through the great depression, amongst powers that want to destroy them. The narrative is about the exploration of innocence: its power, its attraction, and its repulsion. The characters, although a metaphor, are themselves extraordinary and relatable and lovable. From the very beginning I want to be them. I want to be around them. The author uses language so poetically you'll want to rip pieces of this book out and frame them around your house. Or have passages tattooed on your body.

Heather O'Neill has made this world a little more beautiful. And has made me want to cherish and fear the innocence I see in myself and in others. The narrator makes the book come alive. Both people should be showered with awards immediately. There are not enough stars on all of Audible to appropriately rate this book.