Cecil Woodham-Smith has developed an unsual story of Florence Nightingale, which goes far beyond any previous biography because of her access to letters and documents never before used in the Nightingale story. The early chapters covering the period of Florence Nightingale's life up to the time of her training as a nurse are really a study in psychiatry. During this period, the conflicts of an ambitious young lady with a family who wanted her to be a social butterfly led her to the verge of a psychosis, which is well described by Mrs. Woodham-Smith.
The description of Florence Nightingale's baptism of fire during her training period and the Crimean War reports in detail physical and administrative conditions that were intolerable. The detailed analysis of the problems at hand and Miss Nightingale's reaction to them makes one feel that one is living with her as part of her inadequate staff.