The end of the 19th century looms, and Tristram Darling, muckraking reporter but, at heart, a Victorian sentimentalist, offers a chatty, private view of his long-departed comrade, the Lady with the Lamp. For the most part, Darling's Florence is Lytton Strachey's--a person without intimacy who talks like a public address, a devourer of anyone who could be of use in her campaign to reform the British Army, a woman of murderously strategic intellect who performed no action without considering its result, who had no heart to lose and who surely never lost her head. The big difference: Florence's lesbianism, which she reveals to Darling when delirious with cholera in the Crimea: ""My experience of women is almost as large as Europe."" (Darling seems very little shocked for 1855.) But the core of Gordon's fanciful reconstruction is the friendship between the reporter and the super-nurse, a bond of shared idealism and mutual utility--he makes her a heroine while making himself a famous writer, then hangs around back in England to help her fight the good fight with the War Office. Although given to cynical and purple asides, Darling is clearly overwhelmed by her personality: ""I assumed that Miss Nightingale was inspired to unblock the world's theological drains because God was to her a mighty sanitary engineer, with the common sense to advise directly into her ear."" On the medical detail in the field, Dr. Gordon is of course superb, and the historical riffraff are sketched in competently. So those who won't mind his imaginative free play with Florence's passions--for which there's no documentary basis--will find this a likably lively resurrection that, when in doubt, always opts for entertainment over scholarship.