‘Nightingale’ by Andrea Bramhall
Author: Anna Furtado
July 2, 2014
Charlie Porter is an out and proud young woman who’s delayed starting college to recuperate from losing her first love to tragedy. While auditioning for a place in a prestigious music program, Charlie has a chance encounter with Hazar Alim, a pianist and the accompanist for the program auditions. The title of this story, Nightingale, as Hazar reveals, comes from the translation of her name and is a symbol that will prove significant as the story unfolds.
As Charlie starts school and Hazar continues with her own education, the women come together in a very sensual and rather torrid affair. Charlie knows that Hazar’s family and culture make their relationship something that Hazar cannot reveal, but because of past experiences, all Charlie asks is that Hazar be honest with her. After several years together, Hazar thinks she is ready to stand up to her family and make a life with Charlie, but circumstances take a turn that prevent her from ever moving in that direction.
The story is skillfully divided into two distinct sections. The first is Charlie and Hazar’s life as young musicians. Both women are talented and seem destined for stellar careers in music—and they are very much in love. Charlie has a supportive and affirming family. Hazar straddles two very different worlds in a life of love and freedom with Charlie and her traditional, conservative family’s world. Neither could predict what the future holds for either of them.
That future changes quickly when Hazar’s brother, full of self-importance and lacking in any business acumen, plunges Hazar’s father’s business into deep trouble from which only Hazar, it seems, can redeem the family. In an instant, she is gone from school and Charlie’s life and into the bridal bed of a Pakistani businessman, leaving Charlie to believe Hazar has rejected her to move on to the life she has always been destined to live.
In the second part of the story, life has taken a very different turn for both women. Years have passed and Charlie is now a diplomat and negotiator in the Middle East, trying to save lives of British citizens who want to escape the oppression of the culture and the obligations and subjugations it brings. Charlie is good at what she does, although she sometimes takes risks that her employers would rather she didn’t. On what proves to be a very fateful day, she receives a call that will change her life. In a dangerous and difficult set of circumstances, Charlie must summon all her skill and cunning to try to save a woman’s life—and she’s willing to risk her own life and the safety of her team to do it.
The story of Charlie and Hazar’s young love is beautifully drawn and full of rich emotion. The second half of the story is filled with desperation, and is, at times, made difficult to read by graphic descriptions of the treatment of women by men who have no respect for them. Nightingale gives us a glimpse into a culture and the beliefs of a family that been forced into making decisions that are not in their best interest. Bramhall, recently a Lambda Literary Award winner for another work (Clean Slate), has ratcheted up the intensity of this new story several notches by the very nature of the tale, but she counterbalances it with the profound passion of soul mates whose destinies are inextricably intertwined. The story builds to a heart-palpitating conclusion when Charlie must pull out all the stops in order to rescue innocent people and bring some very corrupt characters to justice. This is a tale of courage and determination, a “don’t miss” work from an author that promises a stellar career thrilling us with her skillful storytelling.
By Andrea Bramhall
Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, 9781626390591, 289 pp.