Flight of the Wild Swan

416 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $18.99
ISBN: 9781954276215


ISBN: 9781954276222

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“Melissa Pritchard makes Nightingale’s heroism even more intimate—and more interesting.”

New York Times Book Review

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“A standout.”

New York Sun

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“An addictive read. . . . [Flight of the Wild Swan] unfolds in short punchy chapters punctuated with snippets of letters, journal entries and other bits of ephemera that help humanize Nightingale and provide insight into her sharp mind.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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“[Pritchard] offers a moving portrait of a complex human with the courage to change the world and the heart to mourn her own losses as she does. . . . Flight of the Wild Swan is a beautiful accomplishment.”

Washington Independent Review of Books

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“Relying on Nightingale’s copious letters and journals and other documentary evidence, Melissa Pritchard’s dazzling historical novel brings this complex and idiosyncratic woman to exquisite life. . . . Flight of the Wild Swan is a capacious and tremendously written novel, one that blends history, fiction and a nuanced vision of the ‘wild swan’ herself. It is a story to read, reread and share with others.”


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“Pritchard’s splendid latest illuminates the life of Florence Nightingale. . . . Marvelous and moving.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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“A fresh imagining of an icon. . . . [Florence Nightingale], in Pritchard’s portrayal, is an indomitable force.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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“From country houses to city slums and distant war zones, Pritchard renders the people and places of Florence’s world in lush, richly detailed prose. . . . A compelling story and satisfyingly human portrait of an extraordinary woman.”


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“An inspiring novel about a woman whose single-minded determination comforted and inspired thousands.”

Foreword Reviews

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Historical Novels Review

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Midwest Book Review

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Flight of the Wild Swan is the best of Melissa Pritchard. It combines her exquisite ear for tone and detail in story, her gift of mystic perception, and her sense of the historic layering of human lives and the events that make our lives absolutely distinct. In this novel, you will come to know Florence Nightingale close up, not as a faraway, distant figure.”

Joy Harjo, author of Poet Warrior: A Memoir and Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light

Flight of the Wild Swan offers a fascinating immersion in the 19th-century world of drawing rooms and battlefields, crinolines and leeches. Just as vividly, Pritchard’s tour de force evokes nursing and medicine today, when Florence Nightingale’s pioneering contributions are still felt and in which women still struggle for equality. An enchanting, inspiring, and utterly relevant novel.”

Suzanne Koven, MD, author of Letter to a Young Female Physician

“What an amazing book this is. Florence Nightingale—with her insistent spiritual yearning and her work inside the horrors of war—is a large and quite astounding character, evoked by Pritchard in full intellectual depth. The journey this novel takes is mesmerizing and unforgettable.”

Joan Silber, author of Improvement and Secrets of Happiness

“A remarkable fictional account of the life of one of history’s greatest women.”

Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore (Spokane, WA)

Sweeping yet intimate, Flight of the Wild Swan tells the story of Florence Nightingale, a brilliant, trailblazing woman whose humanity has been obscured beneath the iconic weight of legend. From adolescence, Nightingale was determined to fulfill her life’s calling to serve the sick and suffering. Overcoming Victorian hierarchies, familial expectations, patriarchal resistance, and her own illness, she used her hard-won acclaim as a battlefield nurse to bring the profession out of its shadowy, disreputable status and elevate nursing to a skilled practice and compassionate art.

In lush, lyrical detail, Melissa Pritchard reveals Nightingale as a rebel who wouldn’t relent—one whose extraordinary life offers a grand lesson in inspired will.

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Excerpt from Flight of the Wild Swan

Watch Melissa Pritchard discuss Flight of the Wild Swan on PBS’s Arizona Horizon and listen to her talk about the novel on NurseDot Podcast, KMET’s Moments with Marianne, and KJZZ’s The Show.

Melissa Pritchard shares more of the story behind Flight of the Wild Swan with Book Q&As, ASU News, and The Local; delves into Florence Nightingale’s legacy at The Conversation; and explores the parallel lives of Leo Tolstoy and Florence Nightingale at Literary Hub.

Read an excerpt from Flight of the Wild Swan and find rich resources for your book club discussions of the novel at BookBrowse.