“This book won’t let the reader sleep…a rich and disturbing literary thriller.”
– Annie Proulx, author of Barkskins
“Steven Heighton writes with a beauty and a precision and a soul that’s always astounded me. He captures the shock and trauma of war in a way that only a novelist at the height of his powers can. And he captures mid-leap that act of giving oneself completely to another in all its fragility and fear and grace that only a poet at the height of his powers can.”
– Joseph Boyden, author of The Orenda
“This is a thrilling story, set in an abandoned and ‘forbidden’ village in Cyprus. Each character is uniquely drawn; the interactions between characters carefully nuanced. Steven Heighton creates an unexpected and absorbing cast, thrown together as a result of war and circumstance. He shows that despite the very real effects of trauma, individuals are capable of experiencing a world that can also be gentle, and forgiving. This is a book you will not put down!”
– Frances Itani, author of Deafening
From internationally acclaimed author Steven Heighton comes a passionate novel of buried secrets, the repercussions of war and finding love among the ruins
Elias Trifannis is desperate to belong somewhere. To make his dying ex-cop father happy, he joins the military – but in Afghanistan, by the time he realizes his last-minute bid for connection was a terrible mistake, it’s too late and a tragedy has occurred.
In the aftermath, exhausted by nightmares, Elias is sent to Cyprus to recover, where he attempts to find comfort in the arms of Eylul, a beautiful Turkish journalist. But the lovers’ reprieve ends in a moment of shocking brutality that drives Elias into Varosha, once a popular Greek-Cypriot resort town, abandoned since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Hidden in the lush, overgrown ruins is a community of exiles and refugees living resourcefully but comfortably. Thanks to the cheerfully corrupt Colonel Kaya, who turns a blind eye, they live under the radar of the Turkish authorities.
As he begins to heal, Elias finds himself drawn to the enigmatic and secretive Kaiti while he learns at last to “simply belong.” But just when it seems he has found sanctuary, events he himself set in motion have already begun to endanger it.
“His exquisite, powerful meditations on who we are place Heighton among the great Canadian writers. Heighton’s 2016 Governor General’s Award for poetry was long overdue. It boggles the mind that this brilliant storyteller has never received a major fiction prize. His focus is contemporary, but he is a practitioner of the old school, a writer for those who love to read widely and deeply.”
– The Literary Review of Canada
“Well-plotted . . . tense . . . Heighton skillfully knits together the difficult history and politics of the region, military machinations, and the nuanced inner lives and relationships of Elias and the villagers.”
– Publishers Weekly
“In scintillating prose and with masterly control of his plot and characters, poet and novelist Heighton (Afterlands) weaves a spellbinding tale of love, loyalty, and betrayal. This timely novel is highly recommended to all readers.”
– Library Journal
“In North America today, there are few novelists like Heighton, an award-winning poet and essayist who also writes carefully plotted literary adventures . . . [He has] inherited a post-Conrad tradition, which extends from E.M. Forster to Graham Greene to John Le Carré . . . literary practitioners and epic storytellers. The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep is a novel about big, global forces and small, intimate moments . . . Heighton is as attuned to the micro-politics of the village as to the macro-politics of Europe and the Middle East . . . His focus is sometimes hermetic, sometimes global, and he balances violent passages with lyrical descriptions of intimacy . . . The novel is full of beautiful asides. It’s also full of memorable characters whose friendships are fraught and rich . . . For Heighton, there is no place that’s removed from history; there are only people who dream of living in such places.”
– The Walrus
“Powerful . . . an unsettling, affecting read . . . Heighton has created a novel about the meaning of home, the search for belonging, and the ongoing creation—and understanding—of the self . . . [He] brings his powers as a poet to service, not in terms of elevated or specialized diction, but in keen observation both of individuals and the larger world . . . The specificity and physicality of the language is evocative and, in context, electrifying . . . [He] exhibits a sensitivity to expression, gesture and tone that creates an almost visceral realism . . . [His] nuanced approach is both emblematic of the novel and the key to its success.”
– Toronto Star
“External forces encroaching on self-sufficient territories are as much a signature of Heighton’s novels as the carefully considered words and observations that lend his lines their voltage . . . The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep demonstrates the vitality that marks all his fiction, verse and criticism.”
– The National Post
“A first-rate poet and formidable short-story writer, Heighton’s distractibility results in some fine textural writing . . . [Varosha] is a beguiling setting for a novel, and Heighton, clearly inspired by this “topiary city made of vines, wild grape and bougainvillea,” does it justice through frequent, evocative description . . . Kaya is the novel’s most inspired creation . . . And there’s an appealing, Borgesian touch to Myrto, the village librarian whose personal project is to catalogue its books by ‘essence.'”
– The Globe & Mail
“As rendered in Steven Heighton’s The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep, Varosha is fantastically alluring, a place to seek refuge from the intrusive terrors of the 21st century—a ruin-as-paradise. Its spectral avenues and skyline of “dead hotels” invoke the collapsed civilizations of J.G. Ballard or the discreetly inhabited post-disaster landscapes found in David McMillan’s photograps of Chernobyl and Pripyat . . . [Colonel] Kaya is a memorable, contradictory, despicable rogue who could easily be afforded a novel all his own.”
– Quill & Quire
“A beautiful writer . . . a gorgeous novel.”
– CBC All in a Day
“An elegant fusion of political intrigue and romantic lyricism.”
– Ottawa Citizen
“A powerful engagement with war and its resultant consequences and
dislocations. Heighton’s cast and setting are richly evoked and his dominant
theme – the search for belonging in an inimical environment – is resonant.
The poet’s ear is most apparent in the suppleness of the language, which is
appropriate for a landscape that has the consistency of a dream, though one
that is constantly threatened by the abrupt and vicious intrusion of
– The Hamilton Review
“In The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep, Heighton mashes up the best parts of the geo-political thriller, the historical narrative, and in-depth character study, lashing all these elements together with lyric prose and breathtaking design.”
– Numero Cinq Magazine