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Marie Hélène Poitras

La désidérata

Sing, Nightingale

Narré par Pascale Montpetit, avec une musique originale de Marie Pierre Arthur et François Lafontaine. Durée : 4 h 41 | Avril 2021

Peter Greenaway meets Angela Carter: a Gothic tale of secrets and revenge

Under the blinding skies of Noirax, a long tradition of secrets lies dormant. The men of the Malmaison insist on this silence, feed their broods, and collect a string of ill-fated women (Pampelune, Helena, the Pimparela) known as the desideratas.

Father is content since all’s calm on his estate. He’s locked the door to the House of Perfume to keep the truth from seeping out. After a failed romance, his son, Jeanty, is back home and exploring a new identity. Soon, Aliénor arrives to seek answers and rock the boat. The Crone also shows up, but isn’t who she appears to be. The curtain rises.

La Désidérata pays tribute to stifled voices in graceful, lyrical prose punctuated by dark nursery rhymes. A luminous tale of rebirth, restoration, and revenge.

An English translation is available.

Finaliste – Grand Prix du Livre audio 2022
Coup de coeur Renaud-Bray

Rights sold

World English

Coach House

Image par défaut de Alto

World French (ex. North America)



publishers Weekly

“This is a feast for lovers of gothic lit.”

Charlie Jane Anders

The Washington Post

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."

Foreword Reviews

"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.”

Robert J. Wiersema

The Toronto Star

“ “Sing, Nightingale” is a novel of subversive delights, a timeless story (literally; there are both cars and hazelnut sellers in the village) that gathers its strength from our shared, archetypal memories.

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. ”

Chantal Guy

La Presse

“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.”

Leah von Essen


"Fans of dark, fairy-talelike worlds will enjoy Sing, Nightingale tremendously." –

Sonia Sarfati

Sélection Reader’s Digest

“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.”

Natalia Wysocka

Le Devoir

“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.”

Ian Mond


"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's well worth your time."

Marie Helene Poitras Crédit photo Charles-Olivier Michaud


Marie Hélène Poitras

Born in 1975, Marie Hélène Poitras received the Anne-Hébert Award for her first novel Soudain le Minotaure. La mort de mignonne et autres histoires (2005) was short-listed for the Quebec Booksellers Award. In 2012, she published Griffintown, a novel inspired by the Montreal neighbourhood of the same name, winner of the France-Quebec Award and a finalist for the Ringuet Prize. La desiderata is Poitras’ third book with Alto.

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