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Bottle Rocket Hearts

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  634 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Welcome to Montreal in the months before the 1995 referendum. Riot Grrl gets bought out and mass marketed as the Spice Girls, and gays are gaining some legitimacy, but the queers are rioting against assimilation; cocktail AIDS drugs are starting to work, and the city walls on either side of the Main are spray-painted with the words YES or NO. It's been five years since the ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published April 14th 2007 by Cormorant Books
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Apr 13, 2010 Ciara rated it it was ok
i wish i would have liked this better than i did. it covers topical ground that interests me a lot. the main protagonist is eve, a 19-year-old queer girl from the suburbs of montreal. she gets involved in the city's queer scene & starts dating a somewhat older woman. they are pursuing a non-monogamous relationship & eve is struggling to master her jealousy over her girlfriend hooking up with her glamorous, sophisticated ex on the side. she begins to realize that perhaps part of her jealo ...more
Mar 01, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
I was nine in 1995. I lived west of Montreal and the city seemed like this big, far-off place my dad could magically navigate. I had no real concept of separatism (except that I would have voted a big NO and I knew my parents were worried), or homophobia, or alternative culture.

I am twenty-six now, and Montreal's become home. Reading Bottle Rocket Hearts was familiar; those throwaway mentions of places like Santropol or Foufs stir up my own experiences. I know this city, most of the time; love i
Eve, the spunky 19-year-old protagonist of Zoe Whittall’s debut novel Bottle Rocket Hearts (2007), is a 90s rebel girl, screaming along with Kathleen Hanna as she rides her bike down Montreal’s Ste Catherines street in her silver spray-painted doc martens. Not despite, but because of her irreverent, dead-pan comments such as “I don’t have bad self-esteem, I’m realistic,” Eve is instantly a likable character who makes you root for her throughout Bottle Rocket Hearts; as the writer over at The Can ...more
Danika at The Lesbrary
This is really good, but I just don't think I can read books about toxic relationships & self destructive tendencies anymore. I like the women's studies/SJ politics angle--it felt very true to my experiences. The parts that I didn't like were just that they were done so well. They hit too close to home.
Mar 01, 2016 Josie rated it liked it
Let me start this review by stating that I am a huge Heather O'Neill fan, and to anyone who has read this and even slightly enjoyed it, you need to read O'Neill's books.
This book offers all the promise of a good author. But it did screen "debut". It'll be interesting to read more recent works by Zoe Whittall.
Set in the backdrop of Montreal, with all the seediness of the gay scene, this book paint a very vivid and bleak portrait of a young girl coming of age.
The characters are nicely developed an
Nov 21, 2010 Kendra rated it it was amazing
Wow. I really love this book. It deserves to be on the Canada Reads Top Book of the Decade shortlist.
Strangely uncompelling. Good concept - a lesbian coming-of-age novel set in the era of the Quebec referendum - with clever writing, and yet unconvincing, with characters that just don't grab my interest. Might have been better written as erotica, as anytime the main characters get anywhere near a clinch, something dramatic happens to interrupt them. Like a bomb going off. LITERALLY.
Other encounters are only hinted at in retrospect, and unfortunately, the main character's love interest just isn't
May 17, 2016 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtqia, canadian
Edit 5/17/2016: This has a lot more casual ableism in it than I had remembered! Also some on-page sexual harassment/assault and off-page gay-bashing, so be warned for that. Rereading this also highlighted for me how it really came to me at the exact right moment: when I was 23 and heartbroken and on the verge of moving to Montreal. It consequently lost some of its magic for me on reread, but I do still love it.

Original review (5/4/2014):

I recently read Holding Still for as Long as Possible and d
Jul 16, 2012 Sam rated it liked it
Shelves: library-books
3.5 -- I quite liked this book. Whittall's prose is really lovely, and even though this is a story that has been told many times before, Eve's perspective of being a lesbian in Quebec during the 90's feels fresh and new. It's a story of girl meets girl, girl wanting to be with girl, girl who girl is n love with is a pathological liar, girl finally escapes and knows it's the right decision. It's a good story and the writing keeps the story fast paced and interesting.

However, Della. Oh my goodness
Leo Robillard
Sep 23, 2011 Leo Robillard rated it liked it
Zoe Whittall’s first novel is a simple story. Girl meets girl. Girl loses girl. Girl wins girl back again. Girl realizes aforementioned girl was no good for her in the first place. Girl leaves girl, once and for all.

Essentially, Bottle Rocket Hearts is a coming of age story set in Montreal in the mid-nineties, complicated by the sexuality of its protagonist. Eve’s in love for the first time with the wrong girl and she gets her heart broken. After a brief, precarious rapprochement, she patches i
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Oct 24, 2010 Shannon (Giraffe Days) rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2010, lgbt
I've been wanting to read this book since it came out, so when I joined the CanLit challenge this year it was good motivation to finally start reading. This is one of those times where I'm going to fall back on the publisher's blurb, because I've tried to summarise the book myself and failed miserably. This works much better:

In the year before the 1995 Referendum in Quebec, Eve wants nothing more than to move out of the bedroom community of Dorval and into the real city, Montreal, where she hope
Rachel Baker
Jun 23, 2014 Rachel Baker rated it really liked it
What a good novel. The characters are vibrant, as are the descriptions of Montreal. I liked the slightly non-linear narrative structure and how Whittal brings everything together at the end. While the back cover indicates main story as a coming-of-age, the politics and Anglo/Franco tensions around the '95 referendum made for a complex and fascinating background.
Feb 16, 2009 Korinna rated it liked it
I would of given this book less stars if there hadn't have been an interesting twist in the end. I had a hard time liking this book because I felt it was all about painting cliche portraits of queer feminist radicals. I didn't feel any of the characters did anything in the book that was straying from this caricature, therefore it felt really unrealistic and trite. This might be an interesting book for someone who has never been involved in the queer/feminist/radical activist scene, but for someo ...more
Jan 27, 2011 Kiley rated it really liked it
I read this right after The Bone Cage, and found one parallel: this bucks Can lit territory and offers a very different feminine voice than I'm used to from Canadian female authors: it's franker, rougher, more direct, and a bit more masculine if that's not getting too stereotypical. I liked it and could have seen reading it (even dancing to it) with punk rock music and a whiskey at hand (sadly, neither music nor drink was available). It reminded me of the terrible insecurity of entering adulthoo ...more
This is a book of discovery.
First freedom, first love, first big disappointment and ultimately the discovery that
whatever excess we choose will consume us. p47

The problem with true stories is they almost always end in loss.
Sometimes the difference between fiction and non-fiction is almost arbitrary. p150

Bottle Rocket Hearts falls into this arbitrary space. Ultimately, it fizzes but never really sparkles.
Maybe it suffers from too much hype. Montreal is the most appealing character.

Jan 09, 2016 Alison rated it really liked it
An original tale written in a unique voice. Eve is a young woman coming of age and coming out at the same time, the results of which are well explored in this beautifully written narrative. Eve meets Della, an older lesbian whom charms her young self into a passionate love affair, Eve's first. Issues like homophobia and jealousy are explored in detail amid a backdrop of an alternative lifestyle set in 90's Montreal, complete with rallies and murder, music and art.
The main character is fully real
Apr 16, 2016 Cow rated it liked it
Shelves: canada, toronto, rainbow
(cw: queerbashing, murder) I read Holding Still For As Long As Possible a couple of years ago, and really liked it. Zoe Whittall tells good stories of being young, queer, and Canadian. And that's really what that book--and this one--is: a series of vignettes.

So I went back and read Bottle Rocket Hearts, her first novel, set in Montreal instead of Toronto. And a lot of the charm and the good instincts for what stories to tell are here, but .. it's definitely a first novel; the writing and editing
Angie Abdou
Dec 06, 2010 Angie Abdou rated it really liked it
Downed this in one sitting! Delicious. Zoe Whittall does for Montreal what Armistead Maupin did for San Fran. Reading Bottle Rocket Hearts felt like a trip to Montreal - except I instantly got to hang out with the in-crowd. This is my kind of novel. I can't wait to check out more of her work.
Jul 04, 2015 Sylvia rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels, romance, queer, canlit
The description on the back of the book (on the edition I got anyway) is wildly inaccurate! It says something along the lines of "Eve desperately wants to leave her sleepy town and find a girl to kiss her." Which makes it sound like she's some nerdy virgin kid from suburbs, but I'm pretty sure they're having sex in the first chapter. So what is this book actually about? Okay, so yes, queer kids, friendships/ relationships, I liked how they explored the idea of non-monogamous relationships, and a ...more
Rachel Pollock
Jul 28, 2014 Rachel Pollock rated it really liked it

Wow, i loved this book to bits. Read it in a single sitting.

Critically speaking, i wished that there had been a bit more background about the Quebec political situation that figures into part of the book, and also the attendant violence like the bombings. I wish the copy editor had maintained the device throughout of starting each chapter with the date(s)/time it concerns. Instead, some chapters had clear date ranges cited but others just didn't, which flowed weird. A few homophonic spelling er
Apr 15, 2011 Bevin rated it it was amazing
Baby Femme coming of age in Montreal. Sloppy polaymory. The compulsive liar we've all been in love with. Apathetic natural food store shop girl. So much to love about this book. Pick it up.
Sandrine Guilbert
May 27, 2014 Sandrine Guilbert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Loved This book, I found that the beginning was a bit hard to get into, but around the 75th page I really got into it and I couldn't put the book down till the end.
I really enjoyed that while her sexually was a big part of the story it was not the only thing important. I have read a couple other books where the protagonist was lesbian and it often annoys me how centered it is on it.I also enjoyed that it was set in my city, it made it easier for me to imagine it. Lastly the writing was good and
Mar 04, 2016 Lindy rated it it was amazing
Montreal in the emotionally charged times of the Quebec Referendum -- 1995 and 96 -- is the setting for this novel about falling in love for the first time and learning to let go when the relationship has run its course.

Eve is small, shy and adamantly femme. "With my scrawny torso, A-cups and slight hips, any physical femininity was going to come through my hair. I dyed it white blond last weekend." She is 18 when she falls for Della, an artist 10 years older than herself.

"The first time I met D
Elli (The Bibliophile)
Dec 04, 2014 Elli (The Bibliophile) rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-bought, 2014, canada
I first heard about this novel from Ronlit (her review for Hello Hemlock: and I've been meaning to read it ever since. By chance, I found a copy recently at my local thrift shop and decided now was the time to read it- and it was so great!

The novel has so many things that I love: political themes, strong characters, great writing and great atmosphere. Also, I love reading books set in Montreal, so this book was basically right up my alley. I really liked
Christa  Seeley
Jun 27, 2011 Christa Seeley rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit, 2011
This review originally posted at Christa`s Hooked on Books -- http://christashookedonbooks.blogspot...

I want to start off by saying that this book completely blew me away. I picked it up from the library, barely knowing anything about it and I ended up devouring it in a single sitting and spending days thinking about it.

From the very first page this book is filled with very real and raw emotion. Eve is struggling to figure out what's going on around her and her place in it. On a basic level her
Em Milling
Jul 09, 2013 Em Milling rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 10, 2011 April rated it really liked it
Evie is a baby dyke, just coming out and discovering love and women in urban Montreal right around the time of the 1995 Quebec referendum. Bottle Rocket Hearts covers barely two years of Evie's life, but a lot happens to her in that time, as it does when you start exploring your sexuality, love, women and what it means to be yourself.

Whittall writes this story from Evie's perspective, first person perspective all the way through, which can make the writing somewhat hard to take. It sometimes com
Dani Peloquin
May 11, 2012 Dani Peloquin rated it really liked it
Do not be fooled by this slender novel because Whittall packs in quite a punch! Set against the backdrop of Montreal's 1995 referendum, Whittall brings the reader into a world where rebellion is the norm and assimilation is not a guarantee. It is here that the reader meets Eve who is young and naive in this changing city. She wants more than anything to move out of her parents' house and start a life of her own. When she meets Della, Eve thinks that she has found the answer to her prayers. Della ...more
Nov 23, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit, read-women
I have decided I love reading books set in Montreal. In the '90s. In the newly discovered queer community by a privileged young anglo who is shedding her skin of modest upbringing and buried political ideals. Della is everyone's worst ex-boyfriend. The one who left you at a Pixie's concert with a massive hash high and the empty promise of forever. Eve is one of the few characters in fiction I have felt embarrassed along with, my own hindsight stored away in "well shit" vaults of growing up. She ...more
Apr 16, 2010 Ocean rated it liked it
i drank this book in one huge gulp, because i am hungry for some portrayal of the life i've known as a queer girl weirdo. it was nice reading about peeps who blast team dresch on their walkmans during tense moments--JUST LIKE ME! GASP!--but ultimately i was left kind of unsatisfied. i really wanted to care about the characters, and i didn't. i really wanted to see what was so great about della, the main character's girlfriend, and also what was so awful about her. i got neither.
mainly the whole
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topics  posts  views  last activity Bo...: Bottle Rocket Hearts. 1 42 Nov 02, 2013 04:17PM  
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Zoe Whittall has written two novels, Holding Still for as Long as Possible (House of Anansi, 09/10) now out in paperback and optioned for film. Her first novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, was named one of the Best Books of 2007 by The Globe and Mail and Quill & Quire magazine. Now Magazine awarded her the title of Best Emerging Author of 2007. She has published three books of poetry, Precordial Thu ...more
More about Zoe Whittall...

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“Della & I are drunk at the top of Mont-Royal. We have an open blue plastic thermos of red wine at our feet. It's the first day of spring & it's midnight & we've been peeling off layers of winter all day. We stand facing each other, as if to exchange vows, chests heaving from racing up & down the mountain to the sky. My face is hurting from smiling so much, aching at the edges of my words. She reaches out to hold my face in her hands, dirty palms form a bowl to rest my chin. I’m standing on a tree stump so we’re eye to eye. It’s hard to stay steady. I worry I may start to drool or laugh, I feel so unhinged from my body. It’s been one of those days I don’t want to end. Our goal was to shirk all responsibility merely to enjoy the lack of everyday obligations, to create fullness & purpose out of each other. Our knees are the colour of the ground-in grass. Our boots are caked in mud caskets. Under our nails is a mixture of minerals & organic matter, knuckles scraped by tree bark. We are the thaw embodied.

She says, You have changed me, Eve, you are the single most important person in my life. If you were to leave me, I would die.

At that moment, our breath circling from my lungs & into hers, I am changed. Perhaps before this I could describe our relationship as an experiment, a happy accident, but this was irrefutable. I was completely consumed & consuming. It was as though we created some sort of object between us that we could see & almost hold. I would risk everything I’ve ever known to know only this. I wanted to honour her in a way that was understandable to every part of me. It was as though I could distill the meaning of us into something I could pour into a porcelain cup. Our bodies on top of this city, rulers of love.

Originally, we were celebrating the fact that I got into Concordia’s visual arts program. But the congratulatory brunch she took me to at Café Santropol had turned into wine, which had turned into a day for declarations. I had a sense of spring in my body, that this season would meld into summer like a running-jump movie kiss. There would be days & days like this. XXXX gone away on a sojurn I didn’t care to note the details of, she simply ceased to be. Summer in Montreal in love is almost too much emotion to hold in an open mouth, it spills over, it causes me to not need any sleep. I don’t think I will ever feel as awake as I did in the summer of 1995.”
“It felt like the times were good, like we were remembering a time before Rachel died, even though things were never this good then, because they were just normal, and ordinary is never the kind if good you remember.” 1 likes
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