CBC BOOKS - CANADIAN FICTION TO READ IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2023
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.
"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