The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill

The Lonely Hearts Hotel - Heather O_NeillO’Neill is a wonderfully descriptive writer of places and people, with sensational metaphors. This new novel is about two orphans who endure terrible hardships while growing up in Montreal from 1915–25: poverty and abuse and then the depression.  Much of the story is about vice (such a good word) in Montreal with an extension to New York in the 30s. The two principal characters, Pierrot and Rose, are both flawed and endearing, while dealing with fate and opportunity. This may be my favourite of all O’Neill’s novels.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night – Heather O’Neill

Wonderful storytelling of the remarkable relationship between two siblings, Nouschka and Nicolas, who have grown up without parental love: a physically absent mother and an emotionally absent father. O’Neill captures the francophone world on Montreal in 1995, leading up to the separation vote. The sibling relationship is amazingly close but they are moving in different directions: Nouschka is going forward and Nicolas is stuck in the present/past. Wonderful writing, especially the metaphors!