Author(s): Heather O'Neill
Two children were born in the Montreal winter of 1914: Pierrot of a twelve-year-old girl named Ignorance; Rose, rescued from a snowdrift. They were fated to meet in the Catholic orphanage.
There, in the face of cold, hunger and unpredictable beatings, Rose and Pierrot create a world of talking bears, of circus tricks and a secret language; shielding the spark of their curiosity from the terrorism of those meant to protect them. But even the most extraordinary of spirits can be hurt - especially when it comes disguised as love - and Rose and Pierrot are torn 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. Rose has the means, Pierrot the talent; but their fame will come at a cost, for in the roaring twenties little that is pure remains so for long, and understanding this will bring Rose to a new destiny.
Heather O'Neill's 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 pre-war Montreal and Prohibition New York, to a theatre of magic where anything is possible - where an orphan girl can become a gangster queen, and a ruined innocence can be redeemed.
Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist 2017
'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
Heather O'Neill has written for This American Life and the New York Times. Her first novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, was shortlisted for the Orange Women's Prize; her second, The Girl who was Saturday Night, was longlisted for the Baileys Women's Fiction Prize, and shortlisted for the Giller Prize. Her collection of short stories, Daydreams of Angels, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize. She lives in Montreal with her daughter and a chihuahua named Hamlet.