It must be a thankless task trying to select the people to include in a book like this so thank you to the team at Nosy Crow. The subtitle is: 50 amazing people who have called Britain home. And that just makes the task harder. Many non-Britons have lived here for a time, although the editor has only included those who have made significant stays. Still, the choice was vast and there is no chance that final inclusions will please everyone (or perhaps anyone!). Take me, for example. I’d have liked to see more Scots, more writers, more artists and more people from the twentieth century. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t enjoyed this.

Great Britons passed my first test: it includes Elsie Inglis. Better known now than she was when I was a child, her work is still shamefully undervalued. More recognised in Serbia than Scotland (never mind elsewhere in the UK), she is one of my heroes. Suffragist, doctor, campaigner for the poorest in society, she is probably now best known for her First World War service in Serbia and Russia. Having been told by the War Office to ‘go home and sit still’ when she volunteered her medical services, Elsie went back to Edinburgh and raised funds to set up independent hospital units run by women – the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service.

Each subject has a double page spread which clearly means that only a very short biography can be given. Imogen Russell Williams writes these very well. She is clear and concise and interesting. She treats these significant men and women with respect but includes some quirky facts along the way. I did not know that Yehudi Menuhin once conducted Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with his feet whilst standing on his head! Nor did I know that Stormzy is a voracious reader.

As well as words, the book is full of pictures drawn by Sara Mulvanny. Obviously she has drawn pictures of the subjects and they are excellent – striking and immediately recognisable. But she has also given them a setting to help us visualise their backgrounds and connect them with their achievements.

As regular readers here know, I am fascinated by the ships and the sea. So I was delighted to see that Ernest Shackleton makes it into this book. He’s so often overlooked in favour of Robert Scott with whom he sailed on RRS Discovery (now safely moored in her birthplace of Dundee where she has been visited by me a number of times!). Interestingly – and I do mean that – his 1914 voyage on Endurance is only mentioned briefly as it fits in with his other travels. I enjoyed the opportunity to contextualise his most famous exploit.

Also featuring in the book are a number of people who were little more than names to me. Noor Inayat Khan is one such and someone else with deserves much more general recognition for her wartime contribution. Born in Russia to American and Indian parents, Noor’s family moved to London just after her birth before going on to settle in Paris when she was six. It was the Second World War that caused her to return to London and volunteer for the WAAF. But is was as a member of the Special Operations Executive that I had heard of her. She was the first female radio operator to be sent into occupied France, her job to send back coded messages. But she was quickly betrayed and captured by the Nazis and was imprisoned and tortured before being shot at Dachau.

I’ve picked out a few of those included whose lives appeal particularly to me. I’m pretty sure that any reader will be able to find someone who resonates with them as well as someone whose life they discover for the first time. This book is going on my bookshelves and I know that I’ll delve into it time and again even if it is written with younger readers in mind.

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