Book Review: The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson

The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story
by Christie Watson

Publication date: January 10th 2019
Publisher: Vintage (first published May 3rd 2018)
Pages: 352


Christie Watson was a nurse for twenty years. Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, The Language of Kindness is an astounding account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion and kindness.

We watch Christie as she nurses a premature baby who has miraculously made it through the night, we stand by her side during her patient’s agonising heart-lung transplant, and we hold our breath as she washes the hair of a child fatally injured in a fire, attempting to remove the toxic smell of smoke before the grieving family arrive.

In our most extreme moments, when life is lived most intensely, Christie is with us. She is a guide, mentor and friend. And in these dark days of division and isolationism, she encourages us all to stretch out a hand.

Source: Goodreads


“The Language of Kindness” by Christie Watson is an inspirational read about the reality of nursing. Christie Watson worked as a nurse within the NHS for twenty years, starting aged seventeen. She’s worked across a wide range of specialisms and has a great range of stories to tell from her time on the wards, as well as some self-reflection and personal feelings too.

“Nursing is a career that demands a chunk of your soul in a daily basis. The emotional energy needed to care for people at their most vulnerable is not limitless and there have been many days when, like most nurses, I have felt spent, devoid of any further capacity to give. I feel lucky that my family and friends are forgiving.”

Of course, as you would expect, Christie has seen some terrible things and I completely admire her for this. Some of the descriptions and stories are not for the faint-hearted and a lot of the content is heartbreaking, especially as she’s focused most of her career in paediatric nursing. While the world is going through a pretty crazy crisis right now, it’s really important for us to appreciate those who are there to help you, no matter what.

As well as some emotional stories straight from the hospital, Christie also explores the more academic, historical side of nursing, often relating her stories back to Florence Nightingale or nursing techniques way back in the first century BC. This is certainly interesting and not a subject that I recall learning about in my education, so I was grateful for these little snippets.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book, but I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get on with the writing style and struggled to stay engaged at times. I don’t think it’s fair to compare them side by side, but it’s difficult not to see similarities between this and Adam Kay’s ‘This is Going to Hurt‘. Having really enjoyed Kay’s book a couple of years ago, I was expecting to feel the same level of emotion that resonated with me long after reading. So while I did enjoy “The Language of Kindness”, I didn’t connect with this book quite as much because of this. I completely appreciate that Christie Watson is primarily a medical professional, not an author, but this did take away a little of the enjoyment for me.

Overall rating: “The Language of Kindness” is an intimate look at Christie Watson’s time working as a nurse for the NHS. I enjoyed this story for the most part, but I don’t feel that the writing style has really done this memoir justice – it’s 3 stars from me.

See my other reviews of books by Christie Watson here:

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