[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.