‘Today, I shall have a few guests, Madame Sand amongst them.’ It’s December 1836, Paris. Chopin is living on the fashionable rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and the novelist George Sand on the rue Lafitte. But falling in love with Sand also meant falling in love with her ancestral home, Nohant, a manor house set deep in the Berry countryside.
In Nocturnes at Nohant, we hear not only from Chopin and Sand, but also a rich cast of supporting characters who debate, in their sometimes humorous and often surprising way, the relationship between words and music, place and creativity, and the nature of the creative process itself. The powerful love story which threads the sequence together involves spending time not only in rural France, but also Warsaw, Paris, Majorca and Venice.
Helen Farish’s debut collection, Intimates, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2005. Nocturnes at Nohant shows a considerable advance on that achievement, notably with her mastery of voice and narrative.
"Intimates is a passionate book. Its theme is ancient (the unthinkable pain of lost love) and Farish thinks hard about both pain and happiness. Much of Farish’s art lies in concealment. The economy of her poems and her confidence in their means enable her to speak with convincing directness where other poets might lapse into gestures."
Sean O’Brien, Sunday Times
"Farish uses the first-person speaker with a moving immediacy – as often in the poems that address the death of her father – or deploys it with considerable inventiveness and ingenuity… Intimates is an intensely lyrical work. Farish is adept at conveying a moment of being in a handful of pared, precise images, and she can sometimes astonish with a single line."
Jane Griffiths, TLS
"A debut poetry collection by a poet whose voice is already mature, assured and at times very funny."
Claire Harman, Evening Standard
"These are intelligent, brave pieces that make you wince and smile."
Jackie Kay, Sunday Herald Books of the Year