A Winter on the Nile, By Anthony Sattin
Nurse and novelist as ships that pass in the night
Sunday 24 July 2011
This account of a journey that Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert took at the same time, but separately, along the Nile, is full of delicious might-have-beens.
Both were on the cusp of their fame, but tormented about how to achieve their aims: Nightingale's family opposed her desire to nurse while Flaubert had just written an appalling novel, destined only for the fire.
In a fascinating gender divide, Flaubert took solace in brothels and drug dens, while Nightingale indulged divine inspiration. Both trawled the same sights, often within days of one another, and left tantalising traces of their presence. They set eyes on each other at least once, without, of course, realising the significance.
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