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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Edith Cavell Faith before the Firing Squad by Catherine Butcher

Vividadica, Edith Cavell, Wikimedia Commons.

I noticed several streets in France named after this famous nurse who was executed by the Germans, but I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know much about her so I was anxious to read this book, and it is well-worth reading.  My mother's view of her had been affected by German propaganda after the First World War, I think, so I wanted to know the true story.

Catherine Butcher tells Edith Cavell's story from a religious point of view.  Cavell had a strong but restrained Anglican faith which helped her through the dark days of The First World War and assisted her to die courageously when she was faced with the firing squad in occupied Belgium.  Cavell was brave but not saintly, and Butcher hasn't made this book too admiring, thankfully.

Cavell had a happy and normal Norfolk childhood but she had a strict father who sent her away to school when she was a bit 'naughty' and he caught her smoking.  She did well at school but she found learning nursing in London a bit of a struggle, and the matron wasn't all that impressed with her at first.  It was extremely difficult because she was very young, and the nurses had no social life.  They were instantly dismissed if they went out with doctors or medical students!

Cavell became an excellent nurse eventually, and immediately set out for Belgium when was was declared, because she felt that she 'was more need than ever'.  Here she was matron of Belgium's first training school for nurses, where she was greatly loved by her 'girls'. After the Germans conquered the small but heroic country, there was growing resistance, and Cavell helped the movement by harbouring escaped soldiers and helping them leave Belgium.  She was caught by the Germans and faced her terrible punishment.

This is well-written and interesting, but I found it a little bit dry and very factual.  However, I do defy anyone to read Butcher's account of Cavell's death without crying!

1 comment:

KB said...

I have to be in a certain mood to read a factual story. Thanks for the review.