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Fiction Gothic

Sing, Nightingale

by (author) Marie Hélène Poitras

translated by Rhonda Mullins

Coach House Books
Initial publish date
Feb 2023
Gothic, Literary, Feminist
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

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Peter Greenaway meets Angela Carter: a Gothic tale of secrets and revenge

When the curtain rises on Malmaison, it reveals a once-enchanting estate, quietly falling into darkness and ruin, and at the heart of it, a father, one of a long line of fathers who have flourished at the expense of those around them. The silence seems peaceful, but lurking under it is a deep malevolence, scores of ugly and violent secrets kept by cast-off mistresses and abandoned daughters.

Ever-greedy, the father brings in Aliénor, a woman who promises to make the lands give even more of themselves; the plants will flourish, the animals will multiply, each feast will be more sumptuous than the last. The father thinks the stage is set to satisfy his every desire, but Aliénor will bring a new script, one in which the hunters are hunted and a new reign will begin.

About the authors

Marie Hélène Poitras was born in Ottawa and lives in Montréal. She received the Prix Anne-Hébert for her first novel, Soudain le Minotaure (2002, reissued by Alto in 2022; Suddenly the Minotaur, DC Books, 2006). Her short story collection La mort de Mignonne et autres histoires (Alto, 2017) was a finalist for the Prix des libraires du Québec. While Griffintown (Prix France-Québec and finalist for the Prix Ringuet) was inspired by her experience as a carriage driver in Old Montréal, Sing, Nightingale, an ode to creation, draws on her travels in the French countryside.

Marie Hélène Poitras' profile page

Rhonda Mullins is a Montreal-based translator who has translated many books from French into English, including Jocelyne Saucier’s And Miles To Go Before I Sleep, Grégoire Courtois’ The Laws of the Skies, Dominique Fortier’s Paper Houses, and Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Suzanne. She is a seven-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation, winning the award in 2015 for her translation of Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals. Novels she has translated were contenders for CBC Canada Reads in 2015 and 2019 and one was a finalist for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award. Mullins was the inaugural literary translator in residence at Concordia University in 2018. She is a mentor to emerging translators in the Banff International Literary Translation Program.

Rhonda Mullins' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"There’s a timeless quality to Sing, Nightingale: a gothic, poetic work about decaying patriarchal secrets and their antidote – hidden in a rural French estate. This feminist revenge tale, with a smattering of magic realism, is beautifully constructed. Perfect for lovers of Angela Carter or Cécile Coulon to delve into on dark nights." – Zoe Grams, Quill & Quire 'Books of the Year 2023'

“In dense, almost lyrical prose, Poitras (and her translator Rhonda Mullins) bring readers into a world that’s like a gothic fairy tale, weaving a story of death and decay, of secrets and illusions and a place where blood flows into the dirt.” – Roz Milner, Broken Pencil

“Poitras’s prose is precise and evocative.” – Marcie McCauley, Event

"Arguably, all books aim to transport readers to another world, but not all books can do this as self-reflexively and immersively as Sing, Nightingale by Marie Hélène Poitras (translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins)." – Hollay Ghadery, CAROUSEL Magazine

“I’m not sure I’ve read a book quite so fecund, so bursting with life (and sex) as Sing, Nightingale by Quebec writer Marie Helene Poitras (superbly translated from the Québécois by Rhonda Mullins) … Along with the sumptuous prose, the musical interludes and the moments of metafiction, Sing, Nightingale is a passionate, full-throated deconstruction of the patriarchy that is well worth your time.” – Ian Mond, Locus Magazine

“A tale that is both beautiful and cruel, like only fairy tales can be. One that is deep and rich in what is found within and between the lines, like only fairy tales can be. […] This is already quite an achievement, and then Marie Hélène Poitras adds […] a sensuality that stretches out in every direction. […] A novel that is beautiful in content and form, to be read and discussed.” Sonia Sarfati, Sélection Reader’s Digest

“Marie Hélène writes both the marvelous and the contemptable, the magical and the horrific. She writes about the question of origins and the silence offered up as an answer.” – Natalia Wysocka, Le Devoir

“Marie Hélène Poitras offers readers yet another surprise by taking us where we least expected to go: into an enchanted, sinister forest like the woods of fairy tales… and the nursery rhymes that have left children quaking for centuries, without truly understanding their deep, dark meaning.” – Chantal Guy, La Presse

“Poitras (Griffintown) delivers a gloomy and lyrical fairy tale set in and around Noirax, a fictional French village…This is a feast for lovers of gothic lit." – Publishers Weekly

"Fans of dark, fairy-talelike worlds will enjoy Sing, Nightingale tremendously." – Leah von Essen, Booklist

Sing, Nightingale is, by design, a disconcerting book: At times it seems to take place in the distant past, but mentions of modern technology crop up throughout. The text is peppered with quotations from playfully cruel French nursery rhymes. And Poitras constantly describes food in a way that is both sumptuous and unsettling. . . The overall effect is one of decadence laced with a creeping sense of horror." – Charlie Jane Anders, The Washington Post

“An enticing visitor spells doom—or a new beginning—for a distinguished but troubled family line in Marie Hélène Poitras’s novel…Sing, Nightingale is a twisted, haunting tale of jealousy, murder, and vengeance in the countryside.” – Foreword Reviews

"Poitras’ work serves as a tuning fork; we feel its vibrations within us. We recognize the frequency, buried deeply in our psyches. It is a story that is immediately familiar, yet utterly unique, unfolding with the ineffable logic of a dream, of a memory of events which we have not yet experienced." – Robert J. Wiersema, The Toronto Star

"Poitras’ prose is rich, steeped in the senses, suffused with painting, perfume, and culinary decadence." – Dean Garlick, Montreal Review of Books

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