Alice O’Keeffe, Books Editor at The Bookseller, said: “Our shortlists this year took the judges from Georgian London to the Second World War to contemporary New York. There are books from exciting fresh voices at the very start of their career, contrasted with books from with well-established brand authors at the top of their game. These are the books that sum up 2018 but which, we think, will be read for years to come.”
After 20 years as a nurse working on the NHS front line, Christie Watson has survived, battle-scarred and wise, to produce a beautifully rendered memoir of her own life and those whose lives were often held in her hands. It is a deeply compassionate book that recounts her experiences behind hospital doors, from the heartbreak of stillbirths to the giggles of children. It will leave you weeping as well as hopeful.
There have been plenty of books by doctors about the state of the NHS, but The Language of Kindness gives a different perspective — a powerful insight into the life of nurses. Christie Watson, a nurse turned novelist, gives us a peek into maternity wards, paediatric care units and geriatric wards, mixing personal anecdote with medical fact and philosophy. It’s full of touching vignettes of kindness, such as nurses washing a girl’s hair to remove the stink of smoke from a house fire — or Watson reading out the racing results to a man on the cancer ward.
The Language of Kindness tries to be rather more than a memoir – there are significant sections on the history of nursing, of detailed medical explanation, of scholarly writing about the carer. These sections, while well researched and for the most part interesting, don’t quite succeed like the rest of the book and, at times, make for a slightly disjointed read. The jumps from chapter to chapter add to this feeling. It’s not a perfect book, and ends too abruptly. The sometimes matter-of-fact telling of heartbreaking stories can give it a feeling of emotional disconnection. But it still seems very important.