[The] details, though sparse, are enough to plunge the reader into the warm south, where expectations lean towards the shedding of inhibitions, and clothes. The novel does not disappoint on either front ... One of the books’s greatest strengths lies in its descriptions of caring for an elderly person: the patient’s misdirected rage, their loss of dignity. Kemp relays these descriptions bluntly, which makes them all the more moving ... This unwavering, unerotic intimacy is as refreshing as it is rare in fiction. All told, Nightingale is a deft debut; gritty, unsentimental but deeply moving, aglow with compassion.
...if you’ve ever felt that English literary fiction can be a bit anaemic, lacking in villains and general oomph, then step right up for the bastard offspring of Ian McEwan and Shirley Conran. That’s going a bit too far, but this debut novel delivers dramatic plot turns without embarrassment and has characters as unpleasant as they are sympathetic ... this is a very physical book generally with a sensual appetite ... Reminders of power and control ripple through every conversation ... The rumour-fuelled village setting also enables Marina Kemp to explore how our minds allow stories and fears to bloom, not like flowers, but like weeds, until they overwhelm us ... What we get from a novel is bound up in our expectations of it, so if a sultry setting with passive-aggressive people ends up delivering all sorts of soapy developments...it can provide a satisfaction that literary fiction often overlooks ...For a story about a dying man, this is a book with plenty of life and passion in it. So for a rollercoaster of a read with serious intent, get on the ground floor and try this sexy, single-minded and occasionally silly debut.
Closely observed, profusely detailed and probably overlong, Marguerite is what a friend of mine calls, with some annoyance, a Lives of Quiet Desperation book ... Yet there is also, happily, a great deal of engaging writing. Ms. Kemp has an uncommon ability to keep her scenes ticking along, and she’s terrific with dialogue, injecting the interactions with a brusque, colorful candor at odds with the theme of repression. Ironically, Jérôme is the life of the novel, and the sparring friendship he forges with Marguerite by way of complaints and insults provide its best moments. There’s nothing like an old man raging against the dying of the light to rouse you from stupor, and with him Marguerite gives as good as she gets.
... a slow burn of a novel, written with enough skill to keep readers turning the pages for the first, scene-setting chapters --- and then catching fire until the dazzling denouement ... the characters’ complexities draw readers in ... Debut novelist Marina Kemp captures the suffocating intimacy of local life that ensures no one’s innermost secrets will remain that way for long. What makes Marguerite stand out, though, is that Kemp illustrates the daily rhythms of life in this bucolic village and juxtaposes its beauty with the anguish of its inhabitants. This is quite an accomplishment and well worth the slow start.
While characters’ actions, words, and, sometimes, their thoughts (especially Marguerite’s), are strikingly clear, Kemp leaves the novel’s background elements in a softer focus. But like the cicadas buzzing as spring turns to summer, there are big, loud stories hiding behind Marguerite and Jerome’s day-to-day ... With its French provincial setting, and an unexpected romance hastening its second half, this is a moody, suspenseful, and altogether absorbing debut.
Crises arise from crossed purposes, not simple misunderstandings; Kemp doesn't let her characters off the hook that easily: They make choices, often unwise, that affect not only themselves, but others. Their opposing needs, desires, and angers tighten like a noose around the characters’ lives ... Kemp writes with a careful restraint that makes the emotional explosions all the more powerful when they come.