Nightingales by Gillian Gill
The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale

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Synopsis

Florence Nightingale was for a time the most famous woman in Britain–if not the world. We know her today primarily as a saintly character, perhaps as a heroic reformer of Britain’s health-care system. The reality is more involved and far more fascinating. In an utterly beguiling narrative that reads like the best Victorian fiction, acclaimed author Gillian Gill tells the story of this richly complex woman and her extraordinary family.
Born to an adoring wealthy, cultivated father and a mother whose conventional facade concealed a surprisingly unfettered intelligence, Florence was connected by kinship or friendship to the cream of Victorian England’s intellectual aristocracy. Though moving in a world of ease and privilege, the Nightingales came from solidly middle-class stock with deep traditions of hard work, natural curiosity, and moral clarity. So it should have come as no surprise to William Edward and Fanny Nightingale when their younger daughter, Florence, showed an early passion for helping others combined with a precocious bent for power.
Far more problematic was Florence’s inexplicable refusal to marry the well-connected Richard Monckton Milnes. As Gill so brilliantly shows, this matrimonial refusal was at once an act of religious dedication and a cry for her freedom–as a woman and as a leader. Florence’s later insistence on traveling to the Crimea at the height of war to tend to wounded soldiers was all but incendiary–especially for her older sister, Parthenope, whose frustration at being in the shade of her more charismatic sibling often led to illness.
Florence succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. But at the height of her celebrity, at the age of thirty-seven, she retired to her bedroom and remained there for most of the rest of her life, allowing visitors only by appointment.
Combining biography, politics, social history, and consummate storytelling, Nightingales is a dazzling portrait of an amazing woman, her difficult but loving family, and the high Victorian era they so perfectly epitomized. Beautifully written, witty, and irresistible, Nightingales is truly a tour de force.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Gillian Gill

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Gillian Gill, who holds a Ph.D. in modern French literature from Cambridge, has taught at Northeastern, Wellesley, Yale, and Harvard. She is the author of Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries and Mary Baker Eddy. She lives in a suburb of Boston.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published December 18, 2007 by Random House. 592 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Professional & Technical, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Nightingales

Kirkus Reviews

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Despite volumes of Nightingale family correspondence, significant aspects of Florence’s life remain enigmatic, including her reclusiveness following a debilitating illness in 1857.

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Publishers Weekly

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To focus on the well-nigh unknown family members of an icon is an audacious step for a biographer. And Gill's Nightingales does dwell in some measure on Flor

Jun 14 2004 | Read Full Review of Nightingales: The Extraordina...

The New York Times

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ntil now, Florence Nightingale's family has been mostly offstage in the multitude of books that have been devoted to this intelligent and determined monster of a woman.

Oct 24 2004 | Read Full Review of Nightingales: The Extraordina...

Entertainment Weekly

By twining the story of Florence (the famous 19th-century health-care reformer) with that of her daunting parents, neurasthenic older sister, and extended network of formidably spiky relatives, Gillian Gill in Nightingales does more than offer a fresh biography of the lady called the Bird by ...

Sep 03 2004 | Read Full Review of Nightingales: The Extraordina...

Bookmarks Magazine

Lorrie Lykins Critical Summary "Through the facts [Nightingale] always saw lives," writes Gill, author of books on Agatha Christie and Mary Baker Eddy.

Oct 08 2007 | Read Full Review of Nightingales: The Extraordina...

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