This complex portrait of the “Lady with the Lamp” offers an insightful look into the remarkable life and work of Florence Nightingale and the times in which she lived.
Nightingale was born into a privileged life to enlightened parents who embraced formal education for women and intellectual curiosity. Her parents were less than forward-thinking about her desire to pursue a nursing career, however. Through this struggle and attention to Nightingale’s relationships with women, Reef reveals how her subject defied the rigid conventions of Victorian society and the expectations of women. Reef is honest about Nightingale’s faults. She was cold and demanding of her underlings, insisting upon total obedience. Conversely, she had boundless compassion and mercy for the suffering. Her ambition and controlling personality led her to campaign to be placed in charge of all nursing services in the Crimea. Nightingale is best known for her work during the Crimean War, when she vastly improved gruesome and lethal conditions, dramatically reducing the mortality rate for soldiers. Her modern methods in nursing became defining standards still used today. This legacy receives generous attention, but it is the other aspects of her life Reef covers that make this a complete, nuanced biography.
A vividly written, richly layered portrait of a fascinating woman whose life and work influenced and inspired many. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Biography. 12-18)