Nominated by:

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Montréal, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Coach House Books, Canada

The Island of Books

Dominique Fortier    

Translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins

A rich portrait of the beauty of words – painted by a 15th-century illiterate scribe.

A 15th-century portrait painter, grieving the sudden death of his lover, takes refuge at the monastery at Mont Saint-Michel, an island off the coast of France. He haunts the halls until a monk assigns him the task of copying a manuscript – though he is illiterate. His work slowly heals him and continues the tradition that had, centuries earlier, grown the monastery’s library into a beautiful city of books, all under the shadow of the invention of the printing press.

About the author and translator

Dominique Fortier is an editor and translator living in Outremont, Quebec. Her first novel, On the Proper Use of Stars, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, and Au péril de la mer won the Governor General’s Award for French fiction. She is the author of five books, two of which have been translated into English.

Rhonda Mullins is a writer and translator living in Montréal. She received the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for Twenty-One Cardinals, her translation of Jocelyne Saucier’s Les héritiers de la mine. And the Birds Rained Down, her translation of Jocelyne Saucier’s Il pleuvait des oiseaux, was a CBC Canada Reads Selection. It was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, as were her translations of Élise Turcotte’s Guyana and Hervé Fischer’s The Decline of the Hollywood Empire.

(from publisher)

Librarian’s comments

Dominique Fortier offers here a very delicate and personal book, trying to catch the spirit of such a magnificent place as the Mont St-Michel. The novel is a tribute to books and freedom.

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