Nightingale Point – Luan Goldie
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.