What is it that makes some men and women take difficult decisions and do the right thing against the odds when easier and far less dangerous alternatives are open to them? Why is it that some people - like the undercover heroes working for SOE in Occupied France or the passengers of the United 93 flight on 9/11 - have the courage to dare?
To answer these questions, Gordon Brown explores the lives of eight outstanding twentieth-century figures. Starting with Edith Cavell, who nursed the wounded of World War I in Belgium and helped Allied soldiers escape back to England, he goes on to consider the Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in 1940 returned to Nazi Germany from New York to lead the Christian opposition against the Nazi regime, and the wealthy businessman Raoul Wallenberg, who left neutral Sweden in 1944 to go to Budapest to try save the lives of Hungarian Jews. All three paid the ultimate price.
Telling the stories of America's Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy - who, after his brother's assassination, remade himself as a politician of compassion - and Nelson Mandela, he considers great courage over a long period against daunting odds. And then there is the legacy of Dame Cicely Saunders, who changed the way we care for the dying by founding and leading the Hospice Movement.
Finally, he explores the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, who for twenty years, much of that time under house arrest in Rangoon, has led her country's democratic opposition to military dictatorship, and continues to do so today. These eight heroes are very different people, with very different strengths and frailties, but all share an inspirational courage that Gordon Brown celebrates in these fascinating and moving portraits.