Songs for the Cold of Heart (2018)

A yarn to rival the best of them, a big fat whopper of a tall tale that bounces around from provincial Rivière-du-Loup in 1919 to Nagasaki, 1990s Berlin, Rome, and beyond. Funny, touching, and unpredictable, this is the story of a century—long and glorious, stuffed full of parallels, repeating motifs, and unforgettable characters—with the passion and plotting of a modern-day Tosca.

Available worldwide (outside Canada) from HarperVia
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“If the Americans have John Irving and the Colombians Gabriel García Márquez, we have Eric Dupont. And he’s every bit as good as them.” (Voir)

Finalist, Giller Prize – Canada’s top literary award
Winner, Shadow Giller Prize
Finalist, Governor General’s Award for Translation

A Canadian fiction bestseller (November-December 2018)

Best Canadian Fiction of 2018 – Top 25 Books, CBC Books
A Globe and Mail Top 100 Favourite Book of 2018
A Toronto Star holiday gift recommendation

Winner, Prix des libraires du Québec
Winner, Prix des collégiens
Eric Dupont’s La Fiancée américaine*, at last available in English

*over 60,000 copies sold in Quebec alone

Written by Eric Dupont
Translated by Peter McCambridge
608 pages • 9781771861472 • 9″ x 6″
FICTION / Literary
FICTION / Magical Realism
$29.95 $27.95 website special
Publication Date: July 1, 2018


“spectacular… original in every sense” (Literary Review of Canada)

“masterful… heartbreaking and hilarious” (Publishers Weekly)

“highly recommended” (Library Journal)

“fiercely readable” (Toronto Star)

“This book manages to capture the cultural zeitgeist of Quebec culture in the twentieth century. It reminded me of all the great French Canadian novels I read as a child, but pushed them to new, delightful, hilarious, epic levels. […] I dare you not to read the first three pages and fall in love.” (Heather O’Neill, jury member, 2018 Giller Prize)

As magnificent a work of irony and magic as the boldest works of Gabriel García Márquez, but with a wholly original sensibility that captures the marvellous obsessions of the Québécois zeitgeist of the 20th century. It is, without a doubt, a tour de force. And the translation is as exquisite as a snowflake.” (Giller Prize jury)

With literary talent as well as peculiar imagination, Eric Dupont has long been hailed as spearheading the Québécois literary revival, and in this English translation of his runaway best-seller La Fiancée américaine, we can see why. A book with enormous wingspan and a wonderfully dark wit, this novel offers a panoramic view of the twentieth century…” (World Literature Today)

Wildly ambitious in scope and structure, Dupont’s novel (originally titled La Fiancée américaine) mostly succeeds in throwing many balls into the air and having each land where it has the most impact. Readers may be tempted to start the book again to pick up all the clues they missed the first time through. The entire work is a testament to the power, and pitfalls, of storytelling. Through exaggeration, selective memory, and perspective, whose version of the story can we believe? VERDICT Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

Songs for the Cold of Heart is one of the most celebrated and popular Quebec novels of the past decade” (Montreal Gazette)

“The narrative spreads through time and space; the act of storytelling (taking in all forms of gossip, rumour and fabulation) is likened to the flow of lava or the contagion of smallpox. There’s no stopping the fiercely readable voice of this book once it gets going, no holding its incestuous proliferation of stories down. […] it’s a wonderful read, a testament to the continuing richness and vitality of the art of fiction.” (Alex Good, Toronto Star)

“As insightful as it is absurd, this book celebrates storytelling in all its forms. […] there is nothing derivative about this book, which is original in every sense, operatic in its ambition and passion, and astonishing in its vast complexity. Somehow Dupont manages to weave the chaos into an enduring whole, in part through the use of leitmotifs (teal-green eyes, gold crosses, a birthmark shaped like a bass clef, songs by Schubert and Bach) that act as colourful threads recurring again and again and finally pulling the whole crazy narrative together into a satisfying and coherent tapestry.” (Alison Gzowski, Literary Review of Canada)

rich, vibrant, memorable prose … a saga well worth telling and retelling.” (★★★★★, Foreword Reviews)

“Shortlisted for the Giller Prize and also a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards – Translation,  all the awards should just be thrown at Songs for the Cold of Heart.

This is what these awards were created for weren’t they? The quality of the literary storytelling inside is phenomenal and the translation is impeccable. McCambridge maintains the eloquence and lyricism in Dupont’s writing and the whole reading experience was truly a wonderful one.” (★★★★★, The Literary Hoarders)

“Dupont said he was thrilled with McCambridge’s rendering of his words, saying if he had the vocabulary in English, he would like to write just like him.” (The Canadian Press)

“If you have any interest at all in current Quebec literature, you owe it to yourself to investigate this epic, operatic tale of the Lamontagne family’s odyssey from early-20th-century Rivière-du-Loup to the battlefields of Europe and beyond.” (Ian McGillis, Montreal Gazette)

Songs for the Cold of Heart is made up of stories within stories. Stories that go back to the turn of the 20th century, stories that take place all over the world, stories that dazzle and shock – love, ambition, adventure, betrayal, tragedy, family, home – stories with echos and parallels running through them – teal coloured eyes, bass clef birthmarks, recurring names, paintings of the Virgin’s death, mustachioed Popes – and stories that entertain, each one the antidote to the last. […] Songs for the Cold of Heart is sure to melt the coldest of literary hearts.” (Naomi MacKinnon, Consumed by Ink, #ShadowGiller jury member)

“The consistency of voice and the consistency of the story is really quite impressive. […] It commands some significant respect for being able to do 600 pages of consistent, strong storytelling.” (Jael Richardson, q CBC Radio)

“It is a vast, sprawling, many-tentacled story that stretches the limits of plausibility at times, but in a really fun way, in a really dark way. […] There’s just so much going on and it was really good fun.” (Becky Toyne, Day 6, CBC Radio)

“Like most Canadiens anglais, I didn’t hear of Eric Dupont until this English translation hit the Giller Prize longlist in 2018. I wondered if he was really as good as Irving and Márquez, two luminaries of world literature (and longtime personal favourites of mine). Or was this blurb just another bloated piece of hype? […] Does Dupont chronicle small-town Québec the way Irving does small-town New Hampshire? Can he create memorable characters, the Princes du Québec to Irving’s Princes of Maine? Does his fantastic version of Rivière-du-Loup tell us something about living in a country founded on and still reeling from colonialism and the exploitation of resources and people, like Márquez’s Macondo does? Absolument. […] Believe the hype. The Great Canadian Novel has arrived (en anglais, finalement) and it’s every bit as good as its blurb.” (Laura Frey, 49th Shelf)

“Keeping up with the Lamontagnes is for fans of Marquez and Sterne.” (Edit Seven)

“an epic, rambling, decades-spanning, vastly entertaining book. […] If you read only one fiction book this year, make it this one. ★★★★★” (James Fisher, Miramichi Reader)

wonderfully entertaining” (Tony’s Reading List – Book of the Month for July)

“Dupont is too subtle and innovative a writer just to iterate such symmetries for the sake of pleasing design; each recurrence resonates in a cunningly different way, wrong-footing and intriguing the reader, and springing further surprises. He’s a consummate, exuberant storyteller who, like all the great ones, from Chaucer and Cervantes to Borges, employs symbolic, traditional stories to tell profound truths about the human condition.

This novel warms the heart.

I can’t finish without a word of praise to the translator. Peter McCambridge has produced that rarity—a translation that doesn’t sound like one.” (Simon Lavery, Tredynas Days)

“Check the shelves in just about every household in Quebec with any inclination toward literary fiction and you will find a copy of Dupont’s novel. It’s the Thriller or ABBA’s Greatest Hits of its world, with a popular reach most serious writers stopped dreaming of decades ago. It’s fair to say, then, that the novel now finally available in English as Songs for the Cold of Heart is significant as a socio-cultural phenomenon, irrespective of its literary merits. Happily, those merits are many and varied.” (Montreal Review of Books)

“It’s time for our anglophile self-absorption to end. Perhaps given the Giller-shortlist success of Eric Dupont’s Songs for the Cold of Heart, that door will open just a crack wider and Anglo Canadian publishers will make more of these acquisitions. They might just be what a jaded mainstream readership might yearn for.” (Russell Smith, The Globe and Mail)

about ten or twenty novels packed into one 600-page whopper. There are so many wonderful stories and characters in this book, yet they all perfectly intertwine. I hate to use this phrase, but it really is a tour de force. Highly recommended” (Trish Osuch, Books I’ve Read Lately newsletter)

“This was my favourite Canadian fiction release of the year, and if I ruled the world, it would have won the Giller Prize.” (Mind Picker)

just a wonderful, rich read—I highly recommend it.” (Jean Kosar, lifeisfullofdrama blog)

“A sweeping tale for long winter nights.” (Basil Guinane, The Creemore Echo)

“Sweeping across the 20th century, Songs for the Cold of Heart features a full cast of characters and is a sprawling family saga that does not disappoint.” (Jodie Gladman, The Sudbury Star)

Both the writing and the translation were flawless … a must-read.” (The Literary Hoarders)


“Dupont’s bruiser of a novel begins as a traditional family saga set in a small, early-20th-century Quebec village before swerving into new, less linear, and more psychologically demanding territory […] The sweet, sour, and salty world [Dupont] creates is thoroughly addictive.” (Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review)

immensely entertaining […] spectacularly drives home the wonders of long-form storytelling.” (Booklist, STARRED review)

 “charming” (A New York Post Best Book of the Week)

“a rollicking riot of a novel […] magnificent” (New Zealand Herald)

“a masterful novel. Not to be missed.” (Historical Novels Review)

“Wow, this book was truly something else . . . I love family sagas and this one, brilliant in its extensive and unerring scope, its intricate existential interconnectedness, its acute and unique characterization, its prosaic elegance, was one of the best I’ve ever read.” (Robert Russell Magee,

“This almost-700-page novel is a masterful work of panoramic dimensions, incredible detail, and bewildering imagination. Over the span of a week, I read this one, glued to each page, falling deep into each chapter which were individuals novels within themselves. It is a magnificent family saga of Dickensian proportions filled with as much hilarity and good-times as heartache and sorrow. Dupont paints the inner and outer lives of a great number of wildly unique individuals as they experience a world shaped by the time, place, and society in which they find themselves. It is the work of a genius, a piece of literature that dives into art, music, history, philosophy, and religion, all the while ruminating of the relationships that define the trajectory of our lives. It was truly a remarkable read, one that made me laugh and cry and get swept away in the unpredictable twists and turns and revelations that punctuate such an entertaining entanglement of tales. This novel is an unspoken gem that more people should get acquainted with. Cannot wait to read more of his work.” (Robert Russell Magee,

*In February 2020, HarperVia, an imprint of HarperCollins, published Peter McCambridge’s translation – still available in Canada as Songs for the Cold of Heart – under a new title: The American Fiancée. Same translation, different title.




“Years before her mother bundled her onto a coach bound for New York City in a December blizzard, Madeleine Lamontagne had been a little girl who loved Easter bunnies, Christmas trees, and the stories told by her dad, Louis Lamontagne. Nothing out of the ordinary there. After all, everyone loved to hear Louis “The Horse” Lamontagne’s tall tales. Before television, his stories were the best way to pass the time in Rivière-du-Loup.” (Canadian Living magazine on gin-fuelled storytelling)

“Dreadful news reached us that October. The Russians had broken through the frontline, coming into East Prussia through the village of Nemmersdorf, where the Wehrmacht managed to beat them back a few days later. Villagers were found massacred, their bodies mutilated. All the women had been raped, some finished off with bayonets. People were nervous, but nobody dared leave.” (Québec Reads on dreadful news and galloping zebras)

“In the family portrait taken by Marmen the photographer in June 1968, Louis Lamontagne and his wife are sitting on a love seat upholstered in a magenta floral print on a chestnut background. Irene is dressed in black, and is wearing the look of someone who has lost something important and is wondering wherever it might have gone.” (Family portraits and the colour of slander in Geist magazine, not available online)

Credit: Justine Latour


Born in 1970, Eric Dupont lives and works in Montreal. He has published 5 novels with Marchand de feuilles and in France with Éditions du Toucan and Éditions J’ai lu (Flammarion). He is a past winner of Radio-Canada’s “Combat des livres” (the equivalent of the CBC’s Canada Reads contest), a finalist for the Prix littéraire France-Québec and the Prix des cinq continents, and a winner of the Prix des libraires and the Prix littéraire des collégiens. Songs for the Cold of Heart is his fourth novel and his second to be published in English with QC Fiction. It was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Translation and the Giller Prize.


Originally from Ireland, Peter McCambridge holds a BA in modern languages from Cambridge University, England, and has lived in Quebec City since 2003. He runs Québec Reads and now QC Fiction. Life in the Court of Matane was the first novel he chose for this collection and the book that made him want to become a literary translator in the first place. His translation of the first chapter won the 2012 John Dryden Translation Prize. He has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Translation and the Giller Prize.


✓ One of the province’s most daring and original writers in translation