Marguerite Demers is twenty-four when she leaves Paris for the sleepy southern village of Saint-Sulpice, to take up a job as a live-in nurse. Her charge is Jerome Lanvier, once one of the most powerful men in the village, and now dying alone in his large and secluded house, surrounded by rambling gardens. Manipulative and tyrannical, Jerome has scared away all his previous nurses.
It’s not long before the villagers have formed opinions of Marguerite. Brigitte Brochon, pillar of the community and local busybody, finds her arrogant and mysterious and is desperate to find a reason to have her fired. Glamorous outsider Suki Lacourse sees Marguerite as an ally in a sea of small-minded provincialism. Local farmer Henri Brochon, husband of Brigitte, feels concern for her and wants to protect her from the villagers’ intrusive gossip and speculation – but Henri has a secret of his own that would intrigue and disturb his neighbours just as much as the truth about Marguerite, if only they knew …
Set among the lush fields and quiet olive groves of southern France, and written in clear prose of crystalline beauty, Nightingale is a masterful, moving novel about death, sexuality, compassion, prejudice and freedom.
Reviews of Nightingale
‘For a story about a dying man, this is a book with plenty of life and passion’ The Times
‘Stunning … a book about family, sexuality. death and, ultimately, living’ Prima
Marina Kemp’s Nightingale is an engrossing, mysterious, tender and disquieting book, alive to the agony of private sorrow, the fury of pent-up desires, the weight of unspeakable secrets – and also, always, to the possibility of transcendent beauty. I won’t forget its atmosphere of creeping dread, or its brilliantly realised characters, desperately trying to semaphore their pain and loneliness to one another. This is a debut of real significance.’ Edmund Gordon, The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography
‘Secrets and lies, despair and rebirth as a patriarch dies in rural France. An exquisitely-observed debut from a writer to watch’ Francis Spufford, author of Golden Hill
‘Nightingale immerses the reader not only in a decaying house in the South of France, but in the human psyches of those struggling to survive there. Marina Kemp takes us into the hearts and minds of perfectly imperfect characters living with regret, loss and uneasy consciences in this luscious filmic novel’ Catherine Simpson, author of When I Had a Little Sister
‘This is a breathtaking book. In the absolute literal sense, it took my breath away … This is a beautifully human book, full of compassion for our foibles, tenderness for our pain, and generosity for every misguided, confusing, honest decision any of us have ever made’ Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter
‘With consummate skill and perfect pacing, Kemp unveils surprising secrets and casts a direct and penetrating gaze on the ambiguous sexuality and guilt that underlies our actions. An unusually accomplished first novel’ Sheila Kohler, author of Once We Were Sisters