“Nightingale Point” first drew my attention because it was longlisted in the Women’s Prize for Fiction award in 2020. Then, as I read the storyline, I knew it was going to be a very interesting read. Therefore I went and bought it! And I don’t regret that decision even for a moment! It is an amazing story that deserves all the attention it has gotten!
Nightingale Point is a building complex where one can find all sorts of people. Those that the story evolves around are people of different ages and backgrounds, that are somehow connected mostly before the accident or right when it happened. Because “Nightingale Point” is the story of a big accident that changes everyone’s life, not only those that lived in the building. The building itself is a pretty old one, the kind that needs a care taker and the kind where the lifts don’t work in 1996. So, if you are unlucky enough and have to climb all the way up to 10th floor and beyond, carrying a bag of groceries or a suitcase or something else that is heavy, you are not going to like it.
The book starts with Elvis, a young man, more of a special boy, that lives there all alone. He is under The Care in the Community Programme wings, as he some times fails to focus on the important things, so there is Lina that is at his apartment on daily basis, ensuring he get’s something to eat and everything is fine. He tries to think of all the instructions his care worker gave him and most of the times he does!
Then we meet Mary, a Filipino nurse that lives in Nightingale Point for many years. She is married to David, the man she met back home, but he is often absent. Now that their twins have grown up to adults having their own families, Mary spends most of her time alone. She has a secret though, one she is not sure if she wants to share. But she also has two brothers to take care of. She promised it to their grandmother.
The brothers are 21 year old Malachi and his younger brother Tristan. Tristan is a boy that dreams of becoming a well known rapper, making rimes up all the time. He also has a soft spot for trouble and weed, which blurs his mind and makes things even worse. Malachi has always been the responsible one, not only with regards to his brother, but his depressed mother too. He was in charge of the pills, so he blames himself for his mother’s suicide. He really wants to succeed and get his degree in architecture so he studies hard. The only thing that distract him from his studies, apart from the fact that he has to look after Tristan who always finds trouble, is Pamela, the girl he has a brief relationship that had to end.
Pamela is a 16 year old girl that spent some time with her abusive father, until he sent her away to her mother. This is a difficult situation she is in, but she loves Malachi and she doesn’t like how they separated. Now that she is back, she needs a find a way to talk to him.
And just like that we get to know a bit about some of the Nightingale Point residents. Their life, their struggles, what makes them who they are today and what the expect or look for in their future. The become friends or acquaintances to us, so when the accident happens, we feel with them and for them. We go through the accident with them and Goldie’s writing makes us feel as being part of it. I would almost smell the smoke and feel the heat. I could see the people siting in the pavement and the park full of debris. I could agonise with them, trying to find loved ones, worrying about the present and the future alike. Where will they live? Is there something left of their belongings? Have all the family photographs perished in the fire? Will everyone be able to survive and if not, how could the rest live with the loss?
Luan Goldie inspired by real life events create a tragedy and a masterpiece at the same time. The actual disaster happened in 1992, when a cargo plane in Amsterdam crashed into a tower block soon after take off, killing forty seven people. In her own words:
The survivors of the destroyed blocks lost everything: loved ones, homes, belongings and community.
Then came the aftermath. The media wanted to talk to them, the authorities questioned who the victims were, and challenged their right to be rehoused. They suffered health problems, both mental and physical. They had questions about the accident, the rescue operation, the advice they were receiving. They were angry.
When Grenfell Tower happened, despite it being a different decade and country, a similar narrative played out. Yet again, people felt they were not being listened to.
Please read it.