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Synopsis: The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. 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.

Me: The blurb about this book says it has echoes of The Night Circus about it. That would be The Night Circus if it was full of sexual and physical child abuse, drug addiction, poverty, theft and prostitution. Clowns though. They both have clowns….

The language is very similar. Despite it’s bleak take of love won and lost and the suffering during the Great Depression of both there’s a lyrical note to the writing matching effortlessly Pierrot’s piano playing. I need someone to write the actual score of the music he wrote so I have hear the beauty of it rather than just imagine.

I didn’t like the clowns. I ended up skipping large chunks of description of the many clowns making up the eventual circus towards the back end of the book. It didn’t add anything and it played no part in furthering the story. I didn’t like the child abuse (who does). If I want tales of abused children I can always read Child Called It. The Depression was hard enough of orphaned children without adding in perverted nuns. It just left a sour taste.

I’m not entirely sure I liked Rose. Possibly a result of beaten daily I couldn’t take to her hardened character. Or the way she happily used people to further her own ends. I struggled to find much likeability or sympathy for her. Pierrot I did manage to care a little more for. I think that may be down to the musicality of his character and despite his flaws he seemed to care more about people. Without spoiling the ending I wish it was the other way around.

It’s not a horrible book. It got me through two train trips to London for work and back. I finished it but more out of stubbornness than anything else. I think a thumbs in the middle for this one