Author(s): Diana Souhami
Edith Cavell was born on 4th December 1865, daughter of the vicar of Swardeston in Norfolk, and shot in Brussels on 12th October 1915 by the Germans for sheltering British and French soldiers and helping them escape over the Belgian border. Following a traditional village childhood in 19th-century England, Edith worked as a governess in the UK and abroad, before training as a nurse in London in 1895. To Edith, nursing was a duty, a vocation, but above all a service. By 1907, she had travelled most of Europe and become matron of her own hospital in Belgium, where, under her leadership, a ramshackle hospital with few staff and little organization became a model nursing school. When war broke out, Edith helped soldiers to escape the war by giving them jobs in her hospital, finding clothing and organizing safe passage into Holland. In all, she assisted over two hundred men. When her secret work was discovered, Edith was put on trial and sentenced to death by firing squad. She uttered only 130 words in her defence. A devout Christian, the evening before her death, she asked to be remembered as a nurse, not a hero or a martyr, and prayed to be fit for heaven. When news of Edith's death reached Britain, army recruitment doubled. After the war, Edith's body was returned to the UK by train and every station through which the coffin passed was crowded with mourners. Diana Souhami brings one of the Great War's finest heroes to life in this biography of a hardworking, courageous and independent woman.
'Affection and admiration radiate through this biography ... Shattering stuff' Sunday Telegraph. 'An inspirational and humbling read' Daily Express. 'Diana Souhami's wonderful new book on the renowned First World War nurse Edith Cavell does justice to her by sticking to the truth ... Souhami has done more to restore the elusive Cavell than any other biographer before her ... a picture of the kind of woman that once made Britain great' Amanda Foreman, Mail on Sunday.
Diana Souhami is the author of Gluck: Her Biography, Greta and Cecil, The Trials of Radclyffe Hall (shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Biography and winner of the US Lambda Literary Award), the bestselling Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter (also winner of the Lambda Literary Award and a New York Times 'Notable Book of the Year'), Selkirk's Island (winner of the Whitbread Biography award), Coconut Chaos, Natalie and Romaine and the critically praised Edith Cavell and Murder at Wrotham Hill. She lives in London.