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“Every decent friendship comes with a drop of hatred. But that hatred is like honey in the tea. It makes it addictive.”
Charismatic Marie Antoine is the daughter of the richest man in 19th century Montreal. She has everything she wants, except for a best friend—until clever, scheming Sadie Arnett moves to the neighborhood. Immediately united by their passion and intensity, Marie and Sadie attract and repel each other in ways that thrill them both. Their games soon become tinged with risk, even violence. Forced to separate by the adults around them, they spend years engaged in acts of alternating innocence and depravity. And when a singular event brings them back together, the dizzying effects will upend the city.
Traveling from a repressive finishing school to a vibrant brothel, taking readers firsthand into the brutality of factory life and the opulent lives of Montreal’s wealthy, When We Lost Our Heads dazzlingly explores gender, sex, desire, class, and the terrifying power of the human heart when it can’t let someone go.
About the Author
Heather O'Neill is a novelist, poet, short-story writer, screenwriter, and essayist. Lullabies for Little Criminals, her debut novel, was published in 2006 to international critical acclaim and was short-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Born and raised in Montreal, O'Neill lives there today with her daughter.
"This novel has everything...opulence, whimsy, sugar barons, brothels, factories, revolution, and an intense friendship that forces both participants to straddle darkness and light while clinging to one another for dear life." —Literary Hub
"A twisted, perverse story that's difficult to put down...you'll be desperate to know what [the characters] do next." —Buzzfeed
"Delightful...The plot satisfies with twists and turns to the end, but it’s the audaciousness of spirit emboldening most of [O'Neill's] female characters that makes this novel shine." —New York Journal of Books
“These perversely fascinating characters are filled with guile and bile and many things vile, and even though it’s virtually a certainty that they are star-crossed, it’s impossible to tear one’s gaze away.” —BookPage
“O’Neill’s sharp descriptions and her prose’s archaic slant successfully immerse readers in the period...this distinctive, character-driven story is delightfully perverse.” —Publishers Weekly
"O’Neill uses evocative descriptions and near-constant tension to carry this dark almost-fairy-tale to anunexpected conclusion." —Booklist
“With irreverence and charm, O’Neill takes us into the vivid worlds of Sadie and Marie, unlikely friends who find themselves in the thrall of shared dark passions, threatening to destroy all they have come to know. When We Lost Our Heads is a lovely, uncanny take on the historical novel, told with O’Neill’s trademark wit and empathy for human foibles.” —Esi Edugyan, author of Washington Black
“A dazzling, delicious dream…penned with equal parts arsenic-laced icing and blood. There are marvels and dark delights on every page as O’Neill masterfully unfurls the lifelong love affair of Sadie and Marie, whose tale is illuminated by the triumphs of female desire over the crushing designs of men. The spell this novel casts is irresistible.” —Mona Awad, author of All’s Well
“I am struggling to say how much I loved this book…It is a beautiful, alarming, outraged, outrageous, dancing, laughing, shrieking, bellowing, howling, gobbling piece of wonder. What a joy!” —Edward Carey, author of The Swallowed Man