Untitled document

Extracts from reviews of Hugh Small's biography of Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale, Avenging Angel (First Edition by Constable, London 1998)

"Hugh Small, in a masterly piece of historical detective work, convincingly demonstrates what all previous historians and biographers have missed ... This is a compelling psychological portrait of a Very Eminent (and complex) Victorian.
James Le Fanu, Daily Telegraph, 23 January 1999

"Small's thesis is genuinely new and rewrites the psycho-feminist claim that Nightingale collapsed in a heap back in England because she couldn't bear to be near her dominating mother and elder sister.  Small stays in the realm of psycho-biography, but gives it a stiffer spine, marrying Nightingale's slump to a set of tormenting statistics.  ... It is part detective story, part biography, and wholly relevant to current debates about preventive medicine.  A third of the size of a regular biography, it inserts itself in the gaps which bigger, older studies of Nightingale have left behind, and explores the reasons for their reticence.  In the process, the book becomes not just a study of one life, or one historical problem, but a commentary on the difficulties of writing about both." 
Kathryn Hughes, Literary Review, September 1998

"Small's detailed examination of Nightingale's hospital work and the crisis that followed it sheds new light on her life and a surprising one on the way she was viewed at the time.  Not quite the lady of the lamp that we all thought."
Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times, 29 November 1998

"Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!
History has not been kind to Florence Nightingale.  Ever since Lytton Strachey caricatured her in Eminent Victorians, she has been attacked (mainly by men) as bossy and manipulative.  Feminists have deconstructed her breakdowns and sexuality and woven candyfloss theory about her years in bed.  Hugh Small's gripping story of Nightingale's nemesis and redemption goes a long way to rehabilitate her.  She was worse than we ever thought, but she was greater too."
Jane Ridley, The Spectator, 24 October 1998

"Small comes at his subject from a novel and startlingly illuminating perspective.  Far from debunking this great Victorian icon, however, his portrait liberates a formidable woman from dreamy angelhood, underlining her tragic heroism instead."
Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman, 14 November 1998

"A lively and controversial biography"
John Willcock, The Independent, 30 September 1998

[ Back to main reviews page]