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Fiction Literary

The Obituary

by (author) Gail Scott

Coach House Books
Initial publish date
Oct 2010
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2010
    List Price

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Shortlisted for the Grand Prix du livre de Montreal

Rosine is surrounded by ghosts. Ghosts of family. Ghosts of past lovers. Ghosts of an old Montreal and its politics. Ghosts of the Montreal quarry workers who, in the 1880s, frequented the Crystal Palace gardens, upon whose ruins her Mile-End triplex sits. Her dead maternal family is there, too, with their restlessness, their stories, their forgotten indigenous ancestry, their little crimes and glories. There’s even the ghost of an ancient Parisian gendarme lurking in the dark stairwell, peering through her keyhole.

Rosine herself may be a ghost, her voice splintered – sometimes a prurient “y buzzing over the action, sometimes a politically correct historian, a woman perpetually travelling on a bus or lying in bed – and so too is our understanding of narrative. In offering up a kaleidoscopic view of Rosine and her city, The Obituary fractures our expectations of what a novel should be - allowing the history of assimilation, so violent in the West and so often sidelined by the French–English con?icts of Montreal, to burble up and infect the very language we use.

Though a mystery, possibly involving murder, The Obituary is less a whodunnit than an investigation of who speaks when we speak.

‘A beautiful, challenging poetic novel that is absolutely stunning.’


‘Even the understatements are compelling … though [Scott] balks at being called experimental, this ain’t your grandmother’s etcetera.’

Globe and Mail

The Obituary pushes narrative into uncharted territory. The text possesses a brilliant essence of time, place and flight that pulls the reader in, holds them close and urges them to read between the lines, the impressions, the moments.’

Matrix Magazine

About the author

Gail Scott is an experimental novelist. The Obituary (New York, Nightboat, 2012; Coach House, 2010), a ghost story set in a Montreal triplex, was a 2011 finalist for Le Grand Prix du Livre de la Ville de Montreal. Other novels include My Paris (Dalkey Archive), about a sad diarist in conversation with Gertrude Stein and Walter Benjamin in late 20th century Paris, Main Brides and Heroine. Spare Parts Plus 2 is a collection of stories and manifestoes. Essays are collected in Spaces Like Stairs and la theorie, un dimanche (translated as Sunday Theory from Belladonna, NY, 2013). Scott's translation of Michael Delisle's Le D'asarroi du matelot was shortlisted for the Governor General's award in 2001. Scott co-founded the critical French-language journal Spirale'(Montreal) and is co-editor of the New Narrative anthology: Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (Toronto: Coach House, 2004). She is currently completing a memoir based in Lower Manhattan during the early Obama years.

Gail Scott's profile page

Other titles by Gail Scott

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