The Island of Books

Original title: Au péril de la mer

Publication Date:

September 2015



Original language and publisher

French | Editions Alto

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia

Territories Sold

Canada (English) (Coach House)
Albania (Dritan)
Armenia (Guitank)
France (Les Escales/Pocket)
Italy (Alter Ego)
North Macedonia (Begemot)
Spanish (Spain) (Minuscula)
Ukraine (Anetta)


Literary Fiction

The Island of Books

Original title: Au péril de la mer


 Intriguing and poetic … with the delicate skill of a painter, Fortier presents a beautiful homage to art and its creation, as well as the humanity and life that inevitably rub off on the page or the canvas. – Publishers Weekly

[Fortier’s] sensuous prose, rendered with perfect smoothness by Mullins, is always a pleasure in itself, and she lets the historical parallels and affinities… emerge organically. The result is a seductive love letter to reading, to books, and to the creative impulse. — Montréal Gazette

Dominique Fortier has a gift for making insightful connections between seemingly distant ideas, creating patterns that, at the end of the novel, leave you with the impression that everything is connected, both logically and supernaturally. Set in an improbable fortress in the middle of the sea, her fourth novel explores the to and fro of love and creation. With writing that is both graceful and honed, The Island of Books gives love, maternity and particularly books the mystery that is their due. – Jean-Marc Vallée

It is always a real pleasure to let yourself be guided through the new regions, earthly and human, that Dominique Fortier creates. — Cynthia Brisson, Les libraires

The writing of Dominique Fortier is upheld by a rich language, beautiful and evocative. The recurring use of words deriving from old French adds a pertinent patina to this journey imbued with touching and luminous moments.  ★  Mario Cloutier, La Presse

Dominique Fortier’s writing is at once sensitive and interesting, moving and spare. It reveals a man blinded by pain who tells us his story of love, his distress and the light of the smile of a young woman. A book writtenin quiet emotion that makes for good reading as the wind makes the autumn leaves rustle. – Au fil des pages

It is an absolutely magnificent book. — Chrystine Brouillet, Salut, bonjour! week-end

A rich portrait of the beauty of words – painted by a 15th-century illiterate scribe.

A 15th-century portrait painter, grieving the sudden death of his lover, takes refuge at the monastery at Mont Saint-Michel, an island off the coast of France. He haunts the halls until a monk assigns him the task of copying a manuscript – though he is illiterate. His work slowly heals him and continues the tradition that had, centuries earlier, grown the monastery’s library into a beautiful city of books, all under the shadow of the invention of the printing press.

At once a novel and a journal, The Island of Books  is a fabulous homage to books and to those who create them, written in the spirit of Pascal Quignard and Alberto Manguel.

The Island of Books is the story between Dominique’s and Éloi’s half-extant pages, across five centuries, a cerebral but sweet book about books and what they mean in our lives.

Marketing Information

  • Winner of the Governor General’s Award
  • Over 6,500 copies sold