Review: The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story

When I was asked to review The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story, by Christie Watson, I knew very little about the book, or Christie herself. I’ll be honest with you, when it landed on my doorstep and I read the blurb, upon realising that it was infact Christie’s Memoirs of her nursing career, spanning over twenty years, I instantly assumed that I would find it hard going.

How wrong I was. 

I soon learned that Christie’s first novel, Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, won the Costa First Novel Award and her second novel, Where Women are Kings, was also published to international acclaim, and once I had made my way through the many, many, rave reviews about The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story, I realised that actually, this was going to be something really special.

In the first chapter Christie tells us that she didn’t always want to be a nurse, infact she went thorough a number of possible career options, never really knowing what she wanted to be. Having exhausted all options she somehow slipped onto a nursing course, telling us “No more career choice changes and flitting around; I would become a nurse. Plus, I knew there would be parties.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Christie takes us through the highs and lows of her nursing training, the times she doubted that she had what it takes to become a nurse, and the moment when she realised that nursing was the complete of opposite of what she had imagined it to be.

“What I thought nursing involved when I started: chemistry, biology, physics, pharmacology and anatomy. And what I now know to be the truth of nursing: philosophy, psychology, art, ethics and politics.”

Over the next chapter Christie walks us through life in A&E, a facility we are all familiar with and yet entirely clueless at the same time. She tells us, “A&E is frightening. It reminds us that life is fragile – and what could be more frightening than that?”. The wonderful thing about Christie, and the way she writes, is how she never romanticises nursing in the way that others may do, nor does she share only the horrors, although there are many. She paints a picture that is both harrowing and awe inspiring, that is shocking yet comforting, that leaves you feeling such a rollercoaster of emotions but most of all, inspired.

Christie goes on to tell us the next part of her training centred around mental health nursing, a subject very close to my heart, and I was intrigued to read a professionals account as opposed to my own view, as a patient. I’m pretty sure I read the entire chapter without taking a breath, tears streaming down my face, finding myself wishing that in my darkest moments I’d had a nurse as kind as Christie to hold my hand and shower me with kindness.

“I’m beginning to understand what mental-health nursing is, thought it is difficult to define. ‘A mental-health nurse is a dream-catcher in a desperate window,’ I say.”

From mental-health Christie moves on to midwifery and, despite the jumping from one area of nursing to the next, this flows so beautifully, and naturally. Christie adds real warmth to very factual, and medical information, with the introduction of other nurses she met along the way and the lessons they taught her and, in turn, taught us.

“She has a way of explaining things so that I understand, in a way that I don’t understand. ‘Birth holds the hand of death,’ she tells me. ‘We begin and we end at the same time.'”

Something I love, and yet found incredibly difficult at times too, is that Christie is very honest, very open and very real. Her stories are all inclusive, even the ones which undoubtedly break our hearts. As a Mother without my child, having been through a loss so indescribably sad, it was incredibly difficult to read Christie’s account of witnessing her first experience of the death of a baby, and yet I commend her ability to write it so well.

“There is a terrifying pause, then a few seconds of silence, before she slowly shakes her head. Sometimes, even as a novice, I understand that there simply is no meaning.”

At twenty years old Christie qualifies as a children’s nurse and it is evident that she feels she has found her calling, “Nursing people means doing for them what they would normally do, when they have no will to do it, until they have will to do it.” She describes the reality of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), something again I relate to given that three of our children spent time in there having been born prematurely, including witnessing life saving surgery and organ donation.

She takes us through her work in the mortuary, tackling the taboo of death with such alarming clarity, and yet there is a lesson to be learned in each of her stories. I don’t imagine for one minute that Christie’s story is easy reading for any of us, and yet it is certainly compelling, and leaves you feeling incredibly humbled.

“And the best nursing comes from the heart, and not from the head.”

Interlinked to Christie’s memoirs, we learn of her joy at becoming a Mother herself, giving birth to her daughter and subsequently adopting her son. We learn of the breakdown of her relationship, with a doctor within the same hospital, and her battle to be the best Mother she can be going forward. I love these snippets of Christie, not Christie the nurse but Christie the mother, the daughter, and we see how, although nursing features so heavily in all areas of her life, there are times when she relinquishes her title and allows others to care for her in the same way she cares for others.

“Today I am not a resuscitation nurse. I am not even a nurse. I am a daughter. And it hurts. Everything hurts.”

By the end of Christie’s story I wrongly assumed that as I turned the last page I would feel drained, depressed and saddened by the truth on the fragility of life. And yet the truth is, I felt the exact opposite. I felt energised and inspired, thankful and joyous, and I felt nothing but complete and utter admiration for every single nurse out there, and vowed to live my life feeling far more appreciative that, as a family, we have had little need for nursing.

“Take my hand. Hold my hand tightly. Let us fling open the door and find whatever we find, face all the horror and beauty of life. Let us really live. Together our hands will not shake.”

I urge all of you to read this book, to open your minds to exactly what goes on behind the scenes every single day, and to learn from Christie in speaking the language of kindness. I know that I undoubtedly will.

The Language Of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story is available to buy here at Amazon priced from £8.99.

 

** I was sent a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. We were compensated for our time. ** 

 

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68 Comments

  1. May 14, 2018 / 1:20 pm

    What a beautiful book. I love books that give you real life accounts and I would find this fascinating to hear about life as a nurse. A wonderful review and another one to add to my reading list x

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:37 pm

      Me too! It was so interesting too! xx

  2. May 14, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    This sounds like an interesting book, I can’t imagine what life is like for a nurse, they are amazing people. Perhaps I’ll have to think about picking it up.

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:37 pm

      It was fascinating to see what they go through each day! So much respect for nurses! xx

  3. May 14, 2018 / 2:42 pm

    It does sound like a very interesting book, both beautiful and complex, filled with emotions. I don’t know any nurses so I can’t imagine how life must be in the A&E or in a hospital in general, it’s probably not easy at all.

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:38 pm

      It was quite shocking to think about what they have to go through each day, but so much respect for them! xx

  4. May 14, 2018 / 2:49 pm

    This book sounds so beautiful. I have a friend who is also a nurse who would love this book! Unconditional kindness for people is not easy but it is amazing when people show it.

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:38 pm

      Oh I bet she would relate to so much of it! xx

  5. May 14, 2018 / 4:05 pm

    What a great book. Will have to pick this up and show my sister who is training to be a nurse at the moment.

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:38 pm

      Ahh yes I bet she would love it! xx

  6. May 14, 2018 / 4:37 pm

    Our three oncology nurses were angels and there isn’t a day that I don’t think about them and wish them the very best. Our journey would have been so much worse without them…nurses are the real heroes when it comes to medical care.

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:39 pm

      I can only imagine Patrick, they really are angels to so many people! Lots of love as always. xx

  7. May 14, 2018 / 5:39 pm

    This sounds like a great book to add to my reading list. I give nurses a tremendous amount of credit with all of the challenges they face! I can imagine seeing some of the things you see as one gives you a new lease on life and reasons to be grateful. Thanks for the book idea!

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:39 pm

      I totally agree, and the book really conveys that message! xx

  8. May 14, 2018 / 5:58 pm

    Sounds like a very inspiring read and even with the lows it is balanced. We’d like to find the same kind of book written from a police/emergency services perspective too!

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:40 pm

      Oh yes I think any book that gives an insight into real life is just fascinating! xx

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:40 pm

      It was fab Fran, I recommend it! xx

  9. May 14, 2018 / 6:17 pm

    What an incredible insight and the dedication of nurses. I completely admire every single person that decides that nursing is their career path 🙂

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:40 pm

      I totally agree, so much admiration for them all! xx

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:41 pm

      Thank you! It was a fab read! xx

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:41 pm

      Thank you, it was a great read! xx

  10. May 14, 2018 / 6:56 pm

    Sounds like a fab book. It wouldn’t be the kind that I’d normally pick up but after reading your post I think I’ll give it a go 🙂

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:41 pm

      It’s a great read Ami, I think you’d enjoy it! xx

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:42 pm

      I read far less but have enjoyed the book club as it forces me to read! xx

  11. May 14, 2018 / 7:33 pm

    I very much identify with real life stories so to see how Christie has the courage to write so bravely and honestly about the traumatic experiences that she had to deal with in her line of work is so commendable . It sounds like a book that I would enjoy reading or even my foster mum. She loves reading real life stories!

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      Me too Ana, it is fascinating to read about the lives of others. Christie is an absolute angel! xx

  12. May 14, 2018 / 9:00 pm

    Beautiful book review. it is so interesting to hear about peoples roles from their point of view when it’s real life too

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      I agree Stephanie, that insight is priceless! xx

  13. May 14, 2018 / 9:13 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this book but I will definitely add it to my reading list, it sounds like an amazing read.

    • Laura Dove
      May 20, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      I loved it Niikki, I recommend it! xx

  14. May 14, 2018 / 9:56 pm

    I am all about inspiring stories like this. I love hearing kindness stories and nurses do a lot for others for sure. I am glad you shared this, going to check it out!

  15. May 14, 2018 / 10:21 pm

    Wow! This sounds like a truly incredible read. I am so glad to hear that despite all of the hard to read parts, you felt so uplifted once you were finished. Nurses truly are such inspiring people. I will be adding it to my list of books to read.

  16. May 14, 2018 / 11:41 pm

    Always believe that the best language comes from the heart that will reflect in our gestures and people will see that too! great book!

  17. May 15, 2018 / 6:16 am

    I cannot imagine what a nurse goes through on a daily basis especially those working with children and babies. I think this book is going to be quite moving and I’d love to read it someday soon.

  18. May 15, 2018 / 9:49 am

    I’m currently lying on the sofa very slowly recovering from surgery last week. I ended up in hospital over the weekend on iv antibiotics as I developed an infection, and this was the first time I’d had any experience of being a patient on a ward. Those nurses are superhuman! Funnily enough, I tweeted about it and someone recommended that I read this book – and they tagged the author in the tweet too. I think the universe it trying to tell me something.

  19. May 15, 2018 / 9:54 am

    Sounds like a beautiful book. It is always interesting to look at people in the world who help others, and they have a hard time experiencing them. Real stories are particularly interesting.

  20. May 15, 2018 / 10:15 am

    Thank you for such a comprehensive and interesting review of Christie Watson’s The Language of Kindness. I really admire and respect nurses who have so many different roles to play and often go way beyond the call of duty. I’ll definitely check this book out.

  21. Geraline Batarra
    May 15, 2018 / 10:35 am

    It looks like a nice book to read. I really admire and respect nurses and I totally understand how hard their job is.

  22. May 15, 2018 / 11:48 am

    When books tell about the story of amazing ordinary people, they are worth reading. This one definitely is

  23. May 15, 2018 / 1:35 pm

    It sounds like a beautiful book and it always amazes me the emotions that nurses face on a daily basis

  24. May 15, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    We literally do not deserve nurses. They work around the clock and are some of the most empathetic people I have known or met! They literally do whatever it takes to make you feel well or at least better about your situation – I loved all of my nurses when I was in the hospital!

  25. May 15, 2018 / 4:19 pm

    This sounds like a really lovely book. I think nurses are often underappreciated

  26. May 15, 2018 / 4:32 pm

    Sounds an interesting read it’s always interesting to read about how other’s see things. I’m wanting to train to become a mental health nurse after having worked in hospitals and for private companies as a mental health support worker.

  27. May 15, 2018 / 5:21 pm

    I was getting choked up reading your post. I have been in somewhat of a crossroads this past year. I graduated from nursing school last year and afterwards became unsure whether it is the path that’s truly for me. But this past month, my heart has been leading me back to nursing. Reading your blog and the book reinforced this decision. Thanks for this post, it’s timing is just right.

  28. May 15, 2018 / 6:18 pm

    It must have been an interesting read. I’ve seen nurses in action and work isn’t always easy especially with the long hours. I don’t think they are appreciated enough.

  29. May 15, 2018 / 7:51 pm

    I don’t usually carry out book reviews these days because I find them too time-consuming however what a wonderful way to discover a book you wouldn’t usually pick up. I’m fascinated by midwifery and the book and experiences sound incredibly moving. Polly x

  30. May 16, 2018 / 9:08 am

    I’d like to read this but when I’m in the right frame of mind – if you see what I mean. My sister trained as a Mental Health Nurse and some of her tales are quite harrowing. I have nothing but admiration for nurses. I couldn’t do it. I’d be in tears all the time.

  31. May 16, 2018 / 9:37 am

    I’ve just bought it and downloaded it to my Kindle after reading your review Laura. It’s not often I read a review and before I’m finished I download the book. I usually add the book to a list on my phone to purchase and download at a later time, but not this one! But this is one book I want to read straight away!

  32. May 16, 2018 / 1:58 pm

    I have had so many different friends who are nurses. It can be rewarding but it can definitely be draining. I am going to have to try reading this book.

  33. Angela Ricardo Bethea
    May 16, 2018 / 2:25 pm

    I love a good book to read like this. I will absolutely check this out. Thanks for sharing your review.

  34. May 16, 2018 / 2:32 pm

    The book sounds like it will be an intriguing read for anyone. The quote that touched me the most was “And the best nursing comes from the heart, and not from the head.” Thanks for sharing, I’ll add this book to my collection.

  35. May 16, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    What an interesting book. I love books which give you an overview of what the life of a specific individual is. I find more value on these kind of writings.

  36. May 16, 2018 / 6:49 pm

    Im so glad that it tuned out to be such a positive read for you Laura it sounds like a fab book x

  37. May 16, 2018 / 8:31 pm

    From your review, I am already loving the book especially how she writes of real stories especially how she fits into nursing as a last option then gets to grow in the field. We know how such can be very inspiring and touching. And again, there’s just too much too learn from the book,right?

  38. Chinedu
    May 16, 2018 / 9:21 pm

    Wow. This sounds like a very deep, thought-provoking and enlightening book. I would really want to read it, it sounds like a book that would challenge my perceptions and add value to my life. Thanks for sharing.

  39. May 17, 2018 / 1:52 pm

    Its so hard to imagine being the type of person you must need to be to become a nurse – especially in some specialties. It is hard, not always terribly well paid, long hours…need I go on? Absolutely amazing.

  40. May 17, 2018 / 1:56 pm

    This definitely sounds like a good and interesting book! I am not very fan of reading books but I might grab this one x

  41. Danielle
    May 17, 2018 / 7:03 pm

    This sounds like such an inspiring book – thanks for the indepth review. I am adding it to my reading list.

  42. May 18, 2018 / 9:28 am

    This book looks amazing. I have been after a new read and this is certainly the one that i am going to sink my teeth into this weekend.

  43. May 18, 2018 / 10:22 am

    Another fantastic book added to my ‘to read’ list! I love your reviews, you have a great taste x

  44. May 19, 2018 / 6:08 am

    This sounds like a wonderful book, it must be interesting to read about a nurse’s viewpoint from the other side. I’m glad it left you feeling uplifted and inspired.

  45. May 20, 2018 / 1:25 pm

    wow sounds like such a moving and interesting book, nurses are incredible, the people they help and the things they see x

  46. May 21, 2018 / 6:54 am

    I have always had so much respect for nurses. They’re who comes to mind when I think of people who do work without thanks or wanting thanks. I’m sure it’s also not easy, so I’m glad that she didn’t paint it like that as you said.

  47. May 22, 2018 / 1:37 am

    this is a beautiful book. I have high regard for nurses, especially those who are in it for service. A lot of nurses in our country just got into the profession because of money, just so they can go abroad. But there are really those whose hearts are into service, and they have my respect.

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