Heather O'Neill revisits her award-winning novel Lullabies for Little Criminals with a trip back in time to Val des Loups, the town Jules was born in, and where he met Baby's mother, Manon. This story first appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of The Walrus magazine.
With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.
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.
With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O'Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.
Inventive, outlandish, and tender fairy tales from a bestselling author
The fantastic has always been at the edges of Heather O'Neill's work. In her bestselling novels Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, she transformed the shabbiest streets of Montreal with her beautiful, freewheeling metaphors. She described the smallest of things—a stray cat or a second-hand coat—with an intensity that made them otherworldly.
In Daydreams of Angels, O'Neill's first collection of short stories, she gives free reign to her imaginative gifts. In "The Ugly Ducklings," generations of Nureyev clones live out their lives in a grand Soviet experiment. In "Dear Piglet," a teenaged cult follower writes a letter to explain the motivation behind her crime. And in another tale, a grandmother reveals where babies come from: the beach, where young mothers-to-be hunt for infants in the surf. Each of these beguiling stories twists the beloved narratives of childhood—fairy tales, storybooks, Bible stories—to uncover the deepest truths of family life.
Heather O’Neill’s critically acclaimed debut novel, with a new introduction from the author to celebrate its ten-year anniversary
Baby, all of thirteen years old, is lost in the gangly, coltish moment between childhood and the strange pulls and temptations of the adult world. Her mother is dead; her father, Jules, is scarcely more than a child himself and is always on the lookout for his next score. Baby knows that “chocolate milk” is Jules’ slang for heroin and sees a lot more of that in her house than the real thing. But she takes vivid delight in the scrappy bits of happiness and beauty that find their way to her, and moves through the threat of the streets as if she’s been choreographed in a dance.
Soon, though, a hazard emerges that is bigger than even her hard-won survival skills can handle. Alphonse, the local pimp, has his eye on her for his new girl—and what the johns don’t take he covets for himself. If Baby cannot learn to become her own salvation, his dark world threatens to claim her, body and soul.
Channeling the artlessly affecting voice of her thirteen-year-old heroine with extraordinary accuracy and power, Heather O’Neill’s debut novel blew readers away when it was first published ten years ago. Now it’s sure to capture its next decade of readers as Baby picks her pathway along the edge of the abyss to arrive at a place of redemption, and of love.
Featuring a new introduction from the author
CBC Canada reads winner, Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction winner, Orange Prize for Fiction finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award finalist, International Impac Dublin Literary Award finalist
Praise for Lullabies for Little Criminals
“A vivid portrait of life on skid row.”—People
“A nuanced, endearing coming-of-age novel you won’t want to miss.”—Quill And Quire
“Vivid and poignant. . . . A deeply moving and troubling novel.”—The Independent (London)
“O’Neill is a tragicomedienne par excellence. . . . You will not want to miss this tender depiction of some very mean streets.”—Montreal Review of Books
From the author of the international bestselling, award-winning Lullabies for Little Criminals, a coming-of-age novel set on the seedy side of Montreal's St. Laurent Boulevard
Gorgeous twins Noushcka and Nicolas Tremblay live with their grandfather Loulou in a tiny, sordid apartment on St. Laurent Boulevard. They are hopelessly promiscuous, wildly funny and infectiously charming. They are also the only children of the legendary Québécois folksinger Étienne Tremblay, who was as famous for his brilliant lyrics about working-class life as he was for his philandering bon vivant lifestyle and his fall from grace. Known by the public since they were children as Little Noushcka and Little Nicolas, the two inseparable siblings have never been allowed to be ordinary. On the eve of their twentieth birthday, the twins' self-destructive shenanigans catch up with them when Noushcka agrees to be beauty queen in the local St. Jean Baptiste Day parade. The media spotlight returns, and the attention of a relentless journalist exposes the cracks in the family's relationships. Though Noushcka tries to leave her family behind, for better or worse, Noushcka is a Tremblay, and when tragedy strikes, home is the only place she wants to be.
With all the wit and poignancy that made Baby such a beloved character in Lullabies for Little Criminals, O'Neill writes of an unusual family and what binds them together and tears them apart. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is classic, unforgettable Heather O'Neill.