A first authoritative biography of Florence Nightingale which is based on a tremendous amount of new material (from family papers to her own exhaustive "private notes") and which creates a powerful, impassioned portrait. For here is no gentle lady of the lamp, but a woman who disregarded her beauty and her wellborn background, who had an amazing aptitude for organization, who avoided all public recognition, whose courage was equalled by a harsh impatience and whose mystic sense of mission was countered by an exaggerated despair. Here, from the time when she was seventeen and she first knew that she was to give her life to the service of others (for her, as well as Joan of Arc, there were the "voices"), there followed a "secret life of agony and aspiration" until she reached the certainty that she was to nurse the sick, and only sixteen years later achieved that end after a bitter break with her family. The apprenticeship which began in the wretchedly squalid hospitals of these times found its apotheosis in the Crimea where she met not only the resentment of the officers and the open freeze of the doctors, but faced the filth of fever ridden barrack hospitals, sickness and starvation, and the overloading of injured men in a calamitous campaign. Broken in health, and in spirit, she returned to England, haunted by the facts of preventable disease, determined to reform health standards. And the last decades represent a lifetime of long and often losing battles among official, political circles, solitude and invalidism, embattled crusade which was not without its cruelty, until the last years brought with them a softening serenity... An impressive, absorbing biography heralded as brilliant by the British press, which will receive strong support here.