After a thirty-year exile in Toronto, self-described "mid-listing" Newfoundland author James Nightingale leaves behind a failed marriage to a successful classical musician, who has taken up with an avant-garde composer, and a middling, if critically successful, career to return temporarily to St. John's to receive an honourary degree from his alma mater. Braving the obstacles of artistic and domestic uncertainty and neglected family obligations?not to mention a book-signing and a launch that go visibly wrong?he meets old friends whose own artistic lives have borne little fruit, and contends with a talented daughter who, in defiance of her mother, has abandoned her classica-music roots in favour of performing "deconstructed" traditional Newfoundland songs, a father suffering from dementia but with a sharp memory of disappointment, and an untrustworthy former publisher who is re-releasing his seminal first novel.
Imbued with the language of literature, the imagery of a Newfoundland in flux, and the grace of an author at the height of his powers, Mister Nightingale is at once a diatribe on the vicissitudes of the writing life, and a keen and poignant exploration of one man's coming to terms with the "prevailing anxieties" of la vie quotidienne.
Mister Nightingale is a profound and hilarious meditation on the lives of artists... The pages of this novel are layered with humor and insight, but perhaps most rewarding are Bowdring's veteran grace and skill. For aspiring writers and for the initiated, for the successful and for the defeated, this is a novel that should be read and read closely... Anyone who takes the time to read [Bowdring's] novels will be richer for the experience. —Antigonish Review (NS)