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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > MARCH 2017 > Bitter refuge

Bitter refuge

Steven Heighton’s fourth novel is marred mainly by its handling of plot


The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep

Steven Heighton

Hamish Hamilton Canada

VAROSHA IS A real place that reads like a dreamworld. Once a luxurious resort town within the Greek-Cypriot city of Famagusta, it has, since the 1974 Turkish invasion, become a ghost town, abandoned, fenced in, and placed under the occupation of the Turkish Armed Forces. 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 photographs of Chernobyl and Pripyat. Varosha provides a wildly fertile setting for a novel, so it isn’t a categorical slight to note that this setting is often the best thing about The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep.


Elias is a 30-year-old Canadian with Greek roots who became a soldier to appease his dying father. Recovering from an experience endured while attempting to flush out adversaries in Afghanistan, Elias pays a visit to his aunt and uncle, exiled from Varosha and living in nearby

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