The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay By Andrea Gillies is a great story waiting to be pieced together. It begins with Nina’s enlightenment as it comes in the form of vignette-like memories within her mind. Gillies perfectly illustrates Nina’s thoughts and memories—constantly changing and building on one other.
The story begins with a car collision: Nina standing in the middle of the road taking a photograph and a car coming towards her—not exactly a nice way to start a trip in Greece. What would have been a trip to escape her past, instead Nina is forced to think about her separation with her husband and the affair she had with his brother, her best friend. Going through her memories seemed inevitable since Nina visited Greece twenty-five years ago on her honeymoon. Now she revisits with the hope of finding enlightenment, or at least to escape her problems for a bit. Ironically, her stay at the hospital enables her to sort through her memories and the problems with her husband, Paolo, and her lover, Luca.
In her time at the hospital, she meets Dr. Christos, who is also in the middle of a divorce. He takes special interest in Nina and it is through the dialogue with Dr. Christos that we get to know Nina’s story better. In some ways, the reader has the same relationship that Nina and the doctor have—we discover Nina’s story as he does. Though the novel is told from a third-person perspective, the reader is still able to grasp Nina’s personality and get inside her head, which Gillies accomplishes in a seamless manner. Not only that, but when Nina is in the present and begins to speak about the past, the transition is so smooth that it truly seems as if we are in Nina’s mind.
Gillies creates quite an interesting journey and one that almost anyone can relate to. Nina essentially escapes to find herself (and what better place than Greece?), yet she gets into an accident as soon as she arrives. The road to enlightenment thus far does not go well. Though the first few scenes of the novel are loaded, Gillies is able to find a balance between the shocking scenes by bringing to light different pieces of Nina’s life. For example, the car crash is set up in different memories: what happened during, before, and after the crash. By setting up the scenes this way, Gillies masterfully reflects the chaos in Nina’s life and her attempt to piece it all together.
Nina is very easily relatable; her character is charming and complex. Her thoughts are raw and we can see how Nina works through a problem or makes a decision—the “back and forth” process that everyone is familiar with. Gillies accomplishes the task of constructing Nina’s world in a cohesive manner while drawing you into an actively engaging book.