Book review: Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse, by Catherine Reef

Reef, Catherine. Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse. Clarion, 2016. 184p. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-544-53580-0. Ages 12-14. P7Q9

reef-florence-nightingaleAlmost two centuries ago, the famous “Lady with the Lamp” was born into a time when women were expected to get married, have children, and stay home. Nightingale did none of these: instead, she taught the world how to save lives through excellent nursing, starting with the wounded British soldiers of the Crimean War in the 1850s who suffered from deadly, gruesome conditions. Despite her wealthy parents’ disappointment, she continued her work, despite her fragile health, and developed nursing methods still used today.

Verdict: Reef depicts the subject of her book honestly, including her coldness and occasional estrangements with her sister. Another value of the biography is its demonstration of how the rigidity of the Victorian era held back women, even Nightingale who fought these traditions. The black and white, sepia, or colored drawings are joined by a few photographs and a diagram to show the people in Nightingale’s life and the conditions under which some of them worked. Notes, a three-page bibliography, picture credits, and an index complete this nuanced look at an inspiring woman who changed health conditions in the nineteenth century.

January 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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