The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay


Publication Date: May 05, 2015

304 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $17.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 9781590517291

Ebook

List Price US $17.95
ISBN: 9781590517307/


What happens when you can’t see that the man you married is actually the one you love?

For her whole life Nina Findlay has been in a love triangle with two Italian brothers, Paolo, whom she married, and Luca, with whom she was always in love and who remained her best friend throughout her marriage. Now Nina faces the future alone—estranged from Luca and separated from Paolo, she escapes to the tiny Greek island where she honeymooned twenty-five years earlier. After an accident she finds herself in the hospital telling her life story to an eagerly attentive doctor. As their conversations unfold she comes to understand the twists and turns of her romantic life and the unconscious influence of her parents’ marriage on her own.



Excerpt from The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay

Their main courses arrived, and Luca ordered more wine, and they ate and talked about other things. Nina steered the conversation elsewhere, into their respective trips and what they’d seen and eaten. But when the plates were taken, Luca reverted. 

“Promise me one thing. If ever you decide you need a divorce, you think of me first.” He thought he saw in her eyes that she took him seriously. What else could it be, that strange intense look in them? He went on, “But you’re right, of course you’re right. Our marriage is only perfect because it never happened. We haven’t had to deal with dishwashers and bills and recycling and dull sex.” 

“Dull, is it? That’s a shame.” The back of her neck felt as if it was seizing up.

“Francesca lost interest years ago. Even before she got ill. The cancer has been a big sex drought, and now she’s losing interest in me in general, I think.” 

“Oh I see, you’re in need of a cinq à sept.” It wasn’t possible to smile. “On the way home from the office.” 

“I think the French are an enlightened nation. Shall we say five o’clock tomorrow? But I’m getting on a bit. I may not need two hours.” 

She hid her disappointment in him in checking her phone. “A quickie on the way home. Lovely.” 

“It’s these little adjustments in life that make it tolerable.”

“I’m glad I know that you’re joking.” 

Luca could have joined her there. It might still all have been salvageable but instead he said, “We should get another bottle.”


“In her disturbing and…tantalizing second novel, Andrea Gillies…plumbs the heart of marital infidelity. In the world of this novel, we betray our spouses simply by withholding the best of ourselves, by saving it for another.”  —The New York Times Book Review

“Elegantly told in flashbacks and up-close observations, Nina’s story of adult romance is illuminating, redemptive, and hot as all get-out.” —The Oprah Magazine

“Gillies’s brisk, confident style deftly manages convoluted jumps in time, and small gems of insight glitter among her clean, precise prose…This sure-handed, lovely exploration of the human heart is certain to build Gillies’s audience.” —Publishers Weekly

“In her second novel, Gillies explores…the fallibility of memory and the often heartbreaking half-truths we tell ourselves by way of compensation.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Gillies is a skilled writer, painting the scene of Nina’s Greek getaway with cleanly evocative prose.” —The Huffington Post

“Gillies offers a lot of food for thought about love, memory, and the lies we tell ourselves.” —Booklist

“Riveting.” —Library Journal

“A rich, intricate, utterly convincing portrait of one woman’s midlife meltdown.” —Lisa Zeidner, author of Layover and Love Bomb

“This mesmerizing, intelligent work overturns traditional assumptions about love, family, and loss and delivers a series of twists that are as unexpected as they are richly satisfying.” —Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise

The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay is at once lyrical and riveting. Unfolding on a radiant Greek Island, with darker echoes of Scotland and Norway, this lushly transporting, thoughtful novel moves through overlapping time periods in an intricate series of themes and variations. Despite its graceful cadence, it courses with suspense; Andrea Gillies has given us something rare, an exquisite page-turner.” —Hilary Reyl, author of Lessons in French

The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay is a sure, poised, relentlessly honest novel that carries the reader through multiple layers of deception and revelation, showing us the hidden heartbreak in families and marriage.” —Fernanda Eberstadt, author of Rat and The Furies

“A beautiful exploration of the complexity of memory, desire, and loss, The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay attests to the power of reconstructing our own life narratives so we not only better understand them, but more important, allow them to progress, vibrant and alive.” —Natalie Bakopoulos, author of The Green Shore

“Gillies writes magnificently on everything she touches.”  —Sunday Times (UK)

“[The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay] moves backward and forward across several decades, uncovering intergenerational secrets and the holes in the stories people tell themselves.” —The Guardian (UK)

“Funny and wise . . . not to be missed.” —Good Housekeeping (UK)

“An intelligent, thoughtful, grown-up romance about second chances and the complications of relationships.” —The Herald (Scotland)

“Winner of the Orwell and Wellcome prizes for her first book, Keeper, Gillies combines a wonderfully unreliable narrator with a deeply layered love story.” —Scottish Book Trust

“Romance is everywhere, there is love—filial, parental, platonic, amorous—and flirting and coupling and unraveling. But The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay is not chick lit. There’s a provocative intelligence in Gillies’s tale that challenges perceptions and beliefs about love, honesty, and betrayal.” —Bookanista

“As her marriage disintegrates, Nina Findlay retreats to a tiny Greek island. But when an accident lands her in the island hospital, Nina has time to examine the events and influences that led to her broken marriage, and to share her ruminations with her extremely attentive physician, Dr. Christos. In a similar vein as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Andrea Gillies explores the many ties that color and affect our lives: friendships, family, and, above all, love. On Nina’s journey, we are captivated, surprised, amused, and sometimes saddened as we see a reflection of our own lives.” —Mary Fran Buckley, Eight Cousins Books (Falmouth, MA)

“This marvelous novel artfully illustrates the inner life of Nina Findlay, who could be any one of us experiencing life with all of its pleasures and disappointments. Gillies does a beautiful job of drawing  us into this life and making it feel as if it is ours. This is real life and it caused me to reflect on my own life and how much I will admit to know about myself. A wonderful story. I couldn’t wait to see what Nina was thinking as I turned the pages. Fabulous!” —Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette (Fairhope, AL)


1. On page 399 Paolo tells Nina, “You’ve got to get past this, Nina. This thing between your parents.” How do Nina’s observations of her parents’ marriage affect the decisions she makes about her own marriage? As her understanding of her parents’ marriage changes, how does her own understanding of her marriage to Paolo and her relationship with Luca change?

2. How many “triangles” (p 59) are there in The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay? What are the similarities and differences between them, and why do you think so many of the relationships fit into this shape or structure?

3. On page 1 Nina notes that, “It wasn’t just the facts that mattered, but the sequence,” and she thinks of “chains of events and how they could take people in unexpected directions.” How is the importance of sequence shown in the novel’s form? How does sequence, or the form the novel takes, shape Nina’s enlightenment?

4. Luca is first introduced as “[Nina’s] husband’s brother” (p 7). What characterizes the relationship between Nina and Luca? Where does Paolo fit between them? Ultimately, what is Luca to Nina? Luca describes Paolo as being too much like Nina’s father. Do you agree with this observation?

5. On page 337 Nina says, “[Paolo] made me dictate how things were, how we communicated, what we did, how we lived.” On page 199 the narrator explains that Luca “would have insisted [Nina] dance with him; he would have been physically overpowering, dragging her off the sofa and rolling her across the rug, persisting until she smiled into his eyes and their bond was reestablished.” Does Nina’s opinion of the two men’s behavior change after finishing the novel? How?

6. Nearly all the women in the novel suffer from some kind of sickness: Francesca has cancer, Anna and Nina suffer from depression, Anna has heart problems, and Maria has a stroke. Why do you think this is? How do their illnesses interact with and affect their marriages, if at all?

7. At the end of the novel Paolo confronts Dr. Christos and warns him that he will fight him if he keeps in contact with Nina. What do you make of this exchange? Do you think Nina’s place within the various triangles in the novel turns her into an object?

8. How does Nina’s reevaluation of her mother lead her to reevaluate her own life? Why do you think Anna left the lone journal behind?

9. What books does Nina read or make reference to while she’s in Greece? Are there any similarities between the stories in those books and Nina’s own story?