Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend by Mark Bostridge - review by Christine Kelly

Christine Kelly

More Than An Angel

Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend


Viking 646pp £25

Florence Nightingale, heroine of the Crimean War, is one of the icons of British history – the Lady with the Lamp serenely gliding through the hospital wards, the sick and wounded soldiers kissing her shadow as she floats past. Schoolchildren still learn how, after years of opposition from her wealthy parents and possessive sister, she was eventually allowed to train briefly as a nurse and in October 1854 was authorised by the government to take a party of nurses to the foul, overcrowded Barrack Hospital in Scutari, on the shore of the Bosphorus, where men lay unattended in their soiled, blood-stained uniforms, dying from wounds and disease; how for almost two years she battled with medical bureaucracy and military ineptitude, creating order out of filth and chaos so that soldiers were nursed with proper care in civilised conditions; and finally how, after returning home, she spent years in seclusion, bedridden and exhausted from her long struggle.

There is sufficient fact in this sentimental legend to have ensured its survival for 150 years. Her disappearance from public life meant that she remained for ever in the public imagination as the ethereal young nurse, and it obscured the fact that, alongside her contribution to nursing, she was one

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