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Summary

A moving and masterful novel about sex, death, passion and prejudice in a sleepy village in the south of France.

Marguerite Demers is 24 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.

©2020 Marina Kemp (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"This is a breathtaking book. In the absolute literal sense, it took my breath away. Not one thing that happened was predictable, and yet everything was inevitable, and still, the ending astonished me. 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)

"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, author of 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)

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Different!! Loved it!!!

This is a wonderful story! Wish there had been a 2nd book instead of the sad ending!

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A moving story

This book was a rollercoaster of the emotions of relationships, familial, personal and sexual. A great story, performed well.

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Love the story but so sad

Loved the story not so much the ending, it left me depressed. Wish it could be altered.