The Lonely Hearts Hotel

Heather O'Neill

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their 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 clown routines, 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, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes – after years of searching and desperate poverty – the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

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 Prize for Fiction; her second, The Girl Who was Saturday Night, was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, 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 chihuaha named Hamlet.

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