Pale Shadows: A Novel of Emily Dickinson

Translated by: Rhonda Mullins


Dickinson after her death: a novel of the trio of women who brought Emily Dickinson’s poems out of the shadows 

When she died, Emily Dickinson left behind hundreds of texts scribbled on scraps of paper. She also left behind three formidable women: her steadfast sister, Lavinia; her brother’s ambitious mistress, Mabel Loomis Todd; and his grief-stricken wife, Susan Gilbert Dickinson. With no clear instructions from Emily, these three women would, through mourning and strife, make from those scraps of paper a book that would change American literature.

From the author of Paper Houses, this is the improbable, almost miraculous, story of the birth of a book years after the death of its author. In these sensitive and luminous pages, Dominique Fortier explores, through Dickinson’s poetry, the mysterious power that books have over our lives, and the fragile and necessary character of literature.


Rhonda Mullins

Rhonda Mullins is a Montreal-based translator who has translated many books from French into English, including Jocelyne Saucier’s And Miles To Go Before I Sleep, Grégoire Courtois’ The Laws of the Skies, Dominique Fortier’s Paper Houses, and Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Suzanne. She is a seven-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation, winning the award in 2015 for her translation of Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals. Novels she has translated were contenders for CBC Canada Reads in 2015 and 2019 and one was a finalist for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award. Mullins was the inaugural literary translator in residence at Concordia University in 2018. She is a mentor to emerging translators in the Banff International Literary Translation Program.


“Gorgeous, aching prose… Pale Shadows is a breathtaking contemplation of grief, legacies, and how what a person leaves behind continues to change and inspire the world.” – ★ Starred Review, Foreword Reviews

“I was as delighted by this book as I was by Paper Houses, in part because I was happy to return to the lacework world Fortier creates with her voice. … This handover between writers in time is the essence of literature. Because books do not die. That is the only consolation of mortals who read.” – Chantal Guy, La Presse

“Dominique Fortier’s sixth novel, Pale Shadows, is enchanted. […] It is meant to be taken in slowly, savouring each sentence.” – Ariane Cipriani, Culture Club

“This luminous story brings us closer to Emily Dickinson’s poems, ‘leaves the light shines through,’ and closer to the inspired grace of Dominique Fortier.” – Monique Roy, Chatelaine

Paper Houses and Pale Shadows are the positive and negative of a single image, two facets of the same story.” – Léa Harvey, Le Soleil

“A novel filled with figments and ghosts, the living and the dead, words and silence.” – Yvon Paré, Littérature du Québec

“I can’t remember on what page I started to read Pale Shadows out loud, but it happened naturally. What I was left with, even more dazzlingly still, was the beauty of Dominique Fortier’s prose and of Emily Dickinson’s poetry … Pale Shadows is an elegant, delicate book, a treasure for your bookcase.” – Marie-Anne Poggi, Club des irrésistibles


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220 Pages
8.0in * 5.0in * 0in


February 06, 2024


Coach House Books



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