Checking Out of Lonely Hearts Hotel

*With Spoilers*

lonely hearts hotelI really, really wanted to like this book, but I just… didn’t. I was curious about the premise and soon found myself wrapped up in the writing- I have to hand it to the author that she clearly has talent. My criticism is ostensibly with the subject matter, so because of that I’m going to try my utmost to keep my cool… HOWEVER, I had *way* too many problems with this to actually enjoy this book and argh it was so not my cup of tea.

Initially I did think the characters had promise and I wasn’t put off by the fact it included horrific abuse– not because I enjoy reading that sort of thing (in fact I largely avoid books on child abuse as a general rule)- but I won’t slate a book for including dark content. Especially not when it’s reflecting reality and I respect the author for tackling these topics. This merely served more as an appetiser for the other unpleasantries that made this a miserable reading experience for me.

lolitaWhat ruined the book for me was EVERYTHING ELSE. As much as the atmosphere was captivating, the descriptions vivid and the emotion was palpable, all I was left with was disgust. The book was full of seedy insinuations, abrasive vulgarities and all sorts of cloying topics that made my skin crawl. Here you could put this down to personal taste- because I don’t particularly like feeling revolted. Furthermore, this element of criticism is the same one I have for Lolita: as a single consistent emotion, disgust has a tendency to overpower and sour everything else. It also doesn’t help that I am never keen on art (like Tracy Emin’s unmade bed) which relies solely on a single emotion aka shock value. My problem here is fundamentally that there is no range.

my-bed-tracey-emin-011

For a tragedy to work, there has to be a glimpse of what could be and thus offer a satisfying catharsis when hopes are dashed. And yet, much like the poem City of the Dreadful Night (or in my opinion TFIOS), this plods along with no sense of enlightenment and is in essence grim in its entirety. I could tell from about halfway through the book that the romance wasn’t going to work out and couldn’t hitch my hopes up enough to get invested in it. Considering all the build-up and near misses the way it played out in the end was a letdown. The best tragedies, like Tess, have that shining moment in the middle where the lovers get their glimpse of happiness- here however there’s only living in a hotel room and miscarrying children… not exactly upbeat. But *spoiler alert* it’s not that it mattered anyway, because it did that very modern 180 of cancelling out the romantic relationship story by becoming one of those motherhood-is-true-love tales aka the Maleficent movie narrative structure. Except in this case the tone jars with the so-called “happy” ending.

This is far from my only criticism of the plot. Dare I say it, I found the book romanticised prostitution. Look, I get that Rose loves sex (it would have been nice if she’d had a personality beyond that, but whatever)- still jumping from that into porn and prostitution is quite a leap. It’s presented as empowering, nonetheless: sex work is dangerous and not known to be a road to happiness (do try to not get your knickers in a twist over that statement, just my personal advice/opinion). Off script there are characters addicted to heroin (another lovely subject), end up in the position due to circumstance- conversely the focus of Rose the magically attractive heroine is just doing it for the lols. Forgive me for not being all hip and trendy, I simply couldn’t understand why this book revelled in Rose’s glorified descent into a questionable career.

To say that the characters are hard to like is an understatement. At first, I liked the fact that the heroes Rose and Pierrot stood out, were different and were striving to perform; by the end, I was sick of the fact that all that specialness just boiled down to “I like sex”. Groundbreaking. They also fit into that damaged character trope, where a victim of abuse becomes a “pervert” (not my choice of word), but it’s okay because “we’re all perverts” so yayyy representation… Seriously this book pushes that message over and over and over… and I get it- you want to appeal to the lowest common denominator- only this crap doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. I have my bloody limits.

Still if you think that touches the surface of the bad characterisation, you have another thing coming. One of the worst things about the book is how it tries to “humanise” or explain the villain, Sister Eloïse. Partly, because why are you even trying to humanise a child molester?! (yes, that’s some of the aforementioned child abuse). Partly, because I disagreed with the logic (or lack thereof) of how it was done. For instance: “They are bad with the conviction that they are good” did not work brilliantly in context to explain the motivation for rape. It places more emphasis on the nun’s zealotry, while ignoring aspects of power and gratification (this is all really well explained in Baumeister’s Evil, if you’re interested in a starting point for moral psychology). Either way, this did not sit comfortably with me in terms of expressing the psychology behind her actions. And in case that wasn’t enough, Rose forgives Eloïse (potentially on behalf of her now deceased victim), which just made me yell WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?! That level of bullshit sent. me. over. the. edge. If everything else hadn’t turned me against the book that point certainly would have.

Okay- I’m going to cut this off before I become full on RAGE MONSTER. Despite all my griping, I do get why people like this and I scattered a ton of allusions to other art you can use as a litmus test as to whether you’ll like Lonely Hearts Hotel. Like a *surprise treasure hunt*. Honestly, when I first finished this, I had no idea what rating to give, yet by now I’ve realised this is one of those books I like less and less the more I think about. So I have no hesitation giving it:

2/5 bananas

small bananasmall banana

Aka my rating for “I didn’t like this, but other people might”.

Sidenote: breaking your hands doesn’t make you play piano better (why’d you think pianists ensure their hands for hundreds of thousands of pounds?!) 

Dare I ask: have you read this? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments! (I sincerely hope you liked it more than me!)

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67 thoughts on “Checking Out of Lonely Hearts Hotel

  1. Miss Gentileschi says:

    No, I haven’t read and after reading your review I dare say I don’t ever want to – it sounds ghastly and kudos to you for really reading it through! I’ve long given up on finishing books that I don’t like, it’s just a waste of time that could be better spent at rereading something you like. If you ask me, and remember I didn’t read the book 😉 – I would give it zero bananas! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. MichaelK says:

    I haven’t read it and no plans to since it’s not my kind of book. However it is apparent how strongly you feel about it. Unfortunately there are many examples in every aspect of human creativity that are just shocking and nothing beyond that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Andie @ Andrea's Nirvana says:

    Haven’t read this, but from the looks of it I probably won’t be any time soon… or ever. Glorified prostitution? Heroin abuse just for lols with no consequences, from what I can tell? Humanised child molesters? This seems like something I could NEVER go through, I completely understand you. Thanks for the heads up! I might’ve picked this up…

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ah I hate Lolita too and unfortunately this does have a lot of parallels (although dare I say it Lolita explored the psyche of a child molester far more successfully and accurately- which is such a weird thing to have to say!)

      Like

  4. Zezee says:

    Oh no! This is one I’m looking forward to reading, mostly because of the writing because I sampled a couple pages a while back. But gosh man, that sucks that you didn’t like it much.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Irina says:

    The blurb made it sound interesting (and very different from what you’re describing it as!) so I’m so glad I read your review on it first! Will definitely not pick this up.

    Like

  6. LizScanlon says:

    I saw the cover of Lolita and immediately went- uh oh!!!
    It really does not sound very pleasing to read and I am not entirely sure I am even going to try, seeing that I couldn’t even get through Lolita however, I now am intrigued by some of the ‘i loved it’ reviews, so I shall take a gander to goodreads…
    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hehe yes, I wasn’t keen on that either. I really struggled to finish that (and only did because it was set for uni) Yeah I do get where they’re coming from… mostly, I mean the writing is good. It’s just really questionable subject matter and I wasn’t keen on the way it was tackled.
      Thank you!

      Like

  7. lucindablogs says:

    Well, this is awkward because I really loved this book! I thought the writing was beautiful and although the subject matter was really dark I didn’t feel that the drugs/sex/child abuse was glamorized, I felt that it was explored from various different angles (with predictably horrible outcomes). What kept me reading was the overall tone of almost magical realism that I thought the author managed to keep going throughout – for example I loved the allegorical references to the tragedy/comedy of clowns and the exploration of the desperation and despair that is the flipside of being in love.

    I can’t fault your review in any way – I guess it boils down to personal taste and how much the depiction of the more horrible themes that the book presents affect you. I promise I’m not a monster!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Winged Cynic says:

    Terrific review! Yes, I agree that books that are all about shock or tragedy without offering contrast, insight, or hope don’t hold much value for me. I remember having a similar response to Brave New World a few years ago; it portrayed children having sex with one another, and my disgust couldn’t be warded off even after finishing the book. I see why it’s a classic, but like you say, these things come down to personal interpretation. 🙂 Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

    And then I find myself in front of another book that Trang read and recommends that turned out… like this! Hahah Sorry that disgust was such a strong emotion throughout this book for you. Your thoughts are definitely understandable and actually has me more curious about the book now! Formidable review as always. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hehe no worries- I saw so many positive reviews to be fair (I think Trang’s was actually more nuanced than most) and I do get why people liked it, because it’s well written… but so is Lolita 😉 hehe well I hope you like it more than I did! And I’m really glad I’ve not put you off!! Thank you so much!!

      Liked by 1 person

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