*Starred Review* Among the eminent Victorians, the figure of Florence Nightingale threatens to eclipse the celebrity of all the rest. Daughter of middling privilege and heiress to a tradition of freethinking in political, religious, and social matters, the sickly little girl had a will of steel and an unconventional view of her gender’s potential. Determined to offer humanity great service, the cultivated young woman fixated on nursing, which in the mid-nineteenth century was a function strictly for lower-class servant girls. Nightingale applied considerable organizational talent and persuasive rhetoric to conquer institutional inertia and care for the Crimean War’s wounded, becoming a heroine to those struggling against an entrenched and incompetent aristocracy. The British press’ wildly popular pictorial broadsheets romanticized her as an angel of mercy. Insisting she never sought fame, Nightingale nevertheless became the most recognized woman in the empire save the queen herself. Nightingale applied scientific, statistically based principles to health service in general, extending her impact far beyond her time and bettering all humanity. Bostridge strips through the myth of the Lady with the Lamp, and his detailed but always compelling prose shows a remarkable woman struggling to overcome prejudice and incompetence to bring health back to soldiers’ broken bodies. Without diminishing Nightingale’s singular achievements, Bostridge documents how much her success relied on others’ support. --Mark Knoblauch
'It is hard to imagine how one might improve on Bostridge's masterly understanding' Sunday Times 'A masterly work, sympathetic but even-handed, and enormously enjoyable to read' New Statesman 'Perceptive and engrossing ... a fascinating portrait' History Today 'Compellingly authoritative' Evening Standard 'A biography that triumphs' Daily Mail 'Sympathetic and vivid ... Will not be superseded for generations to come' Telegraph 'A masterly achievement ... immensely readable' Financial Times
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