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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, Feminist, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 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 writer and translator living in Montréal. She received the 2015 Governor General's Literary Award for Twenty-One Cardinals, her translation of Jocelyne Saucier's Les héritiers de la mine. And the Birds Rained Down, her translation of Jocelyne Saucier’s Il pleuvait des oiseaux, was a CBC Canada Reads Selection. It was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, as were her translations of Élise Turcotte’s Guyana and Hervé Fischer’s The Decline of the Hollywood Empire.

Rhonda Mullins' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“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

Other titles by Marie Hélène Poitras

Other titles by Rhonda Mullins