Malachi is a 21-year-old student responsible for looking after his streetwise teenage brother Tristan.
Between that and nursing a broken heart he feels like the whole world is on his shoulders. Tristan just wishes Malachi would get over himself and concentrate on more important matters. Elvis, a man with severe learning difficulties is trying to get used to living on his own but he gets confused and forgets the instructions given to him by his care worker. Filipino nurse Mary is torn between her newfound (but still a secret) happiness, and her sworn obligation to look out for Malachi and Tristan. But what about her own family? Pamela desperately needs to talk to Malachi, but her dad has locked her in the flat and there’s no way in or out.
It’s just an ordinary day on Nightingale Point, a London council estate. Paths cross, words are exchanged, some kind and some unkind. Choices and decisions are made. But nobody is prepared for what happens next. I had many thoughts as to what could happen: a stabbing, a suicide, a riot? All of these ran through my mind but I was not prepared for the visceral shock of what does occur: a tower block in flames, panic, shock, blood, broken bodies, the fight to get to safety, to find loved ones, to stay alive.
It was hard not to think of the Grenfell tragedy while reading Nightingale Point, the parallels are very clear, especially in the aftermath of the incident. Luan Goldie skillfully portrays a community almost destroyed but somehow finding a way to come together to rebuild and heal. The characters are flawed in several ways but the way in which they deal with their respective trauma and grief is so very real and relatable. The anger, the pain of rehabilitation, alongside the frustration of dealing with the authorities are all too recognisable as we have seen recently with the struggles the Grenfell survivors have faced.
What I loved about the book was how uncynical it was in its portrayal of the victims. There’s a scene where one character saves the life of another, in a way that was completely unexpected and the subsequent repercussions of that act was so precious. Even with characters who were not wholly sympathetic from the outset, such as Pamela’s dad you cannot help but feel a measure of sorrow given the circumstances. Some might feel that this is a little over sentimental, but it really made for an uplifting read. A bit of sentimentality about the resilience of the human spirit is not a bad thing in these cynical times.
Nightingale Point is available to buy from all good book retailers.