Florence's writing bounces, flashes, and tears; her letters are succinct--sometimes funny, sometimes biting. They show her youthful enjoyment of books and music, and her misjudgments in maturity, as when she argues against women going to medical school. The letters also follow the careers of individual nurses from the Crimean War (when several had to be sent home for drunkenness and one for theft) through the decades in which Florence labored to mold the profession's ethics as well as its standards of competence. Yet always, in her verbal glitter, you feel Florence's driving intelligence.
The editors' thorough and wonderfully clear biographical essays provide the fullest and most trenchant account I know of [Nightingale's] diverse achievements. And because these essays are inserted among the letters at well-chosen intervals, rather than being plunked down at the beginning in a forgettable lump, we experience Nightingale's long life as a succession of phases. No reader of these letters will be tempted to reduce their writer to a single, simple stereotype, angelic or demonic.
New York Times Book Review
The introduction and linking commentaries of
Ever Yours set the letters in the context of an earlier Nightingale canon, and steer a judicious path between the extremes of sneering and hagiography which have characterized much of the literature so far. The portrait emerges with warts and all...Vicinus and Nergaard are also careful not to gloss over Nightingale's weaknesses in the area of medical science, and the deeply ambiguous nature of her legacy to the nursing profession...The scholarship and emotional balance of the editors ensure that this is probably as complete a presentation of Nightingale as we are ever likely to get in a single volume.
Times Literary Supplement
As one of the most famous women of the 19th century, Florence Nightingale reflected the changes and continuities of her age and the conflicts and contradictions that beset pioneering women of the era. Hence, this important collection -- selected from over 10,000 of her surviving letters -- should prove immensely valuable to students and scholars. The letters represent the full range of her interests and reveal her complex nature: her family conflicts, her ambivalence toward feminism, her views on gender relations. The volume's usefulness is enhanced by a general biographical introduction, focused introductions to each chronological section, and selected reference material. Recommended for specialists. --Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., N.J.
The editors weave together a narrative account and a selection of Nightingale's letters (from the 10,000 she left!) to portray a woman of great brilliance, drive, and contradiction. The selection emphasizes the relationship between Nightingale's private conflicts and her enormously varied public responsibilities. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)