Contemporary Fiction

Nightingale Point – Luan Goldie

1 May 2020
Nightingale Point Book Cover Nightingale Point
Luan Goldie
Interpersonal relations
July 25, 2019

On an ordinary Saturday morning in 1996, the residents of Nightingale Point wake up to their normal lives and worries. Mary has a secret life that no one knows about, not even Malachi and Tristan, the brothers she vowed to look after. Malachi had to grow up too quickly. Between looking after Tristan and nursing a broken heart, he feels older than his twenty-one years. Tristan wishes Malachi would stop pining for Pamela. No wonder he's falling in with the wrong crowd, without Malachi to keep him straight. Elvis is trying hard to remember the instructions his care worker gave him, but sometimes he gets confused and forgets things. Pamela wants to run back to Malachi but her overprotective father has locked her in and there's no way out. It's a day like any other until something extraordinary happens. When the sun sets, Nightingale Point is irrevocably changed and somehow, through the darkness, the residents must find a way back to lightness, and back to each other. Readers love Nightingale Point: 'A beautiful and heartbreaking story about working-class people and their lives both before and after tragedy' 'I couldn't put it down...a beautiful story of staying strong when it matters most' 'A triumphant debut...This book pops, fizzes and sparkles to life' 'A must-read masterpiece'

This is Luan Goldie’s first novel. She is “an emerging young writer of color”, who is a primary school teacher in England, and her novel is on the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction long list.

The novel tells the story of a working-class community on a housing estate in London. Nightingale Point, one of several buildings on this estate, experiences a major tragedy. Goldie has created a compelling cast of diverse characters including Mary, a nurse, originally from the Philippines; Malachi and Tristan, young men of colour and neighbours to Mary, who keeps a motherly eye on the orphaned brothers; Elvis, a young man described as “having learning difficulties”, who has moved out of a group home to live independently, with the assistance of caretakers; and Pamela, a teenaged white girl, living with an insanely protective and racist father.

The story is set in May 1996. While it is completely fictional, Goldie based the story on an incident in Amsterdam in 1992, and she began the book before the tragedy of the Grenfell fire in a housing estate in London. The force of this novel is not rooted in the accident but on the impact of the incident on her characters. Their actions are not predictable, and those who rise to overcome the worst of it all will surprise you. Most of the action is set in a space of six months, with a final section that is set five years later.

This is a book that provides insights into the dignity and struggles of working-class people. Goldie has created characters that you will care about, some of whom are resilient, and some who fall apart for a time.
Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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