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East Falmouth author Terri Arthur’s historical novel has brought to a wider audience the story of Edith Cavell, a nurse who was executed by German authorities during World War I for aiding Allied soldiers.
East Falmouth author Terri Arthur’s historical novel has brought to a wider audience the story of Edith Cavell, a nurse who was executed by German authorities during World War I for aiding Allied soldiers. “Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse”

Heroic WWI nurse gets her due

Ten years ago East Falmouth resident Terri Arthur visited England to research the life of fellow nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed by the Germans during World War I. On that trip, Arthur wandered into a ceremony in Cavell’s hometown commemorating the nurse’s wartime heroics.

Cavell, who operated a nursing school and hospital in German-occupied Belgium, had helped smuggle at least 200 Allied soldiers into the Netherlands so they would be safe from the Germans. In August 1915, she and some of her associates were arrested by German authorities. Convicted on charges of treason, she was executed by a firing squad.

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“Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone,” she declared shortly before her death.

At the 2005 ceremony, a BBC reporter asked Arthur what inspired an American to be interested in Cavell. “I responded that I felt that Cavell represented nurses from every country and that every nurse would understand why she did what she did and would do the same,” Arthur said in an e-mail. In an effort to bring Cavell’s story to a wider audience, she decided to write a novel about her.

Fast-forward a decade. Next month Arthur will speak at the annual service in Norwich, England, honoring Cavell. “Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse” (HenschelHaus), the historical novel Arthur wrote based on her research, has helped bring Cavell’s heroics to the fore and residents of Cavell’s hometown are grateful. A hundred years after her execution, a commemorative coin is being minted, and Cavell is being honored in the United Kingdom with considerable fanfare. Arthur couldn’t be happier. “She is finally getting her due and I think my book has had a hand in making that happen,” she wrote.

Teen talk

Close to 30 authors of young-adult novels will talk about their books, chat with fans, and pose for pictures at the fourth annual Boston Teen Author Festival taking place Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cambridge Public Library. Panel discussions will include sessions on the people, places, and stories that have influenced the authors as well as what goes into crafting a fantasy world. Festival cofounders Renee Combs and Marisa Finkelstein both studied publishing at Emerson College. The list of participating authors is at embraceya.weebly.com.

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Poe’s world

Boston College professor and Edgar Allan Poe devotee Paul Lewis will lead two walking tours of Poe’s Boston this fall. The 90-minute tour starts at the Milner Hotel, 78 Charles St. South, near the life-size statue of Poe. The tours will begin at 2 p.m. Sept. 27 and 1 p.m. Oct. 3. Cost is $15.

Coming out

 “A Little History of the United States” by James West Davidson (Yale University)

 “Where the Bodies Were Buried: Whitey Bulger and the World That Made Him” by T.J. English (Morrow)

 “Leadership B.S.: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time”
by Jeffrey Pfeffer
(HarperBusiness)

Pick of the Week

Carole Horne of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge recommends “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine” by Damon Tweedy (Picador): “In this season of Ferguson and Charleston, when we must assert more loudly and clearly than ever that black lives matter, this book is essential reading. Tweedy reflects on the issues faced by black professionals as they confront racism in their careers and how the inequities of our health care system affect black patients.”

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Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.