Sunday, April 13, 2014

Doctor Dee

By Elizabeth Wesley
(pseud. Adeline McElfresh), ©1960

When Dr. Dee Bailey joined the surgical staff of big, modern Still River General Hospital to serve as anesthesiologist under Surgeon Arn Thurston she made an implacable enemy of Nurse Cele Maynard. For the young nurse was madly in love with the handsome surgeon and believed Dr. Dee wanted him, too. Then fate played into the hands of Nurse Maynard. A powerful underworld czar was brought for an emergency operation and Nurse Maynard listened on an extension phone as a sinister voice offered Dr. Dee “real money, a hundred grand—if he don’t come through that operation.” When Phil Roscoe died on the table, the young nurse, almost insane with triumphant malice, made her accusation—Dr. Dee Bailey had taken a man’s life for a hundred thousand dollars!
“Let a doctor be personable and good-looking, and they don’t trust him.”

I didn’t realize until I started in on this book that it is actually the prequel to
Dr. Dorothy’s Choice, which is not a book I cared for very much, since the Dr. Dorothy “Dee” Bailey was a spineless wimp buffeted about by the men in her life. Here, though, she shows a bit more starch, and with good writing to bolster the storyline, we’ve got a better yarn with Dee’s introduction, and one worth reading.
Dee has returned to Still River, Indiana, her home town, after medical school and residency and a job in New York, to work for Dr. Paul Courtney. She’s walked into a bit of a mess, however, taking control of the anesthesiology department from Celia Maynard, nurse anesthetist, who is not happy about her demotion. Cele is also ridiculously jealous because about a week after Dee’s arrival, Cele’s boyfriend, surgeon Arn Thurston, makes a major pass at Dee at a dinner party that he has attended with Cele on his arm. Dee does not show enough sense to tell Dr. Thurston to get lost, unfortunately, and the gossip about Arn and Dee’s moonlit peccadillo doesn’t make things any better between the two ladies.
Then, when a golf buddy of Arn’s collapses with a gallbladder attack, it is revealed that he has a bad heart due to an unspecified stab wound to the pericardium that makes surgery risky. Scrubbing up for surgery, Dee gets a phone call during which she is advised of a unique financial opportunity: Should former Sing Sing resident and wise guy Phil Roscoe not survive the surgery, her bank account could be $100,000 heavier. Then, when Phil does arrest on the table, Cele, present in the room as a curious onlooker, starts shrieking that she was eavesdropping on the extension and overheard the whole exchange, and that Dee is a murderer.
The rest of the book is a somewhat strange muddle in which a pack of fairly stupid gangsters threaten Arn to speak out against Dee or they will reveal an incident from his past in which he ordered a barbiturate for a young patient who subsequently died; he had denied having written the order and was never proven to be guilty of wrongdoing, though everyone suspected him of it. A bundle of cash is hurled onto Dee’s doorstep, and when she turns it over to the police, she is kidnapped. Instead of whimpering in a corner, though, she plots her escape, and thank goodness she decided to forego the Keds for heels this morning!
In the end, delivered back to Still River by a passing truck driver, Dee lands in the arms of a man she has dated but professed little interest in, so though we should see it coming, it still feels a bit odd. The fate of Dr. Thurston, the gangsters, Cele, and even Dee’s career is left unanswered, and unless there’s another book between this and Dr. Dorothy’s Choice, we can only guess how all that turns out. But there’s some nice writing and some fun characters in this book, and the plot is livelier than many. Even if you decide not to follow Dee’s career path going forward—and I can’t strongly recommend that you do—you could do a lot worse than to watch her debut.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nurse on the Riviera

By Jane Converse (pseud. Adele Kay Maritano), ©1968
She took the posh European assignment to be near Bill Lindley. It seemed ideal, really. Private duty nurse to millionaire Richard Olner; guest of her patient, and his son and daughter on the glamorous Riviera. Once there, Terry Crane realized she’d made a mistake. The handsome and eligible Dr. Lindley was enjoying himself immensely—with the jet-set crowd. And Terry found herself alone in a climate perfect for love. … That’s when her millionaire patient turned romantic and his twenty-four-year-old son turned competitive. That’s when the amorous French doctor entered her life. For Terry Crane romance was everywhere on the Riviera—except in the eyes of the one man she really loved.
“It’s bad medicine to create a scene.”
Terry Crane is in love with Dr. Bill Lindley. We’re told that on the second page, and we’ll just have to take Terry’s word for it, because we hardly know the man. They exchange a few perfunctory words about their patient, a wealthy 46-year-old businessman felled by a major stroke, and then the crickets start chirping. She agrees to tag along on the patient’s trip to France, despite the fact that he’s recovered pretty well at this point—his main disability seems to be … an aggravating propensity … to drop ellipses into his speech … every few words or so … a trait that Terry adopts … to my increasing annoyance …. Her sole motivation is to spend more time with Dr. Lindley, but once they arrive, he sets off for the swankier spots along the Cote d’Azur, leaving Terry to wander the halls of the villa and go on occasional dates with the local medecin, Dr. Armand Gautier. After a few dinners, though, she tells him she’s in love with Dr. Lindley, and that ends that minor diversion. With little else to do, patient Richard falls in love with Terry and begins pressing her to marry him, much to the chagrin of his money-grubbing children. She resists him, too, but now she can squabble with the kids, who are intent on scaring her off.
After about a hundred pages in which Terry sees no sights but frequently moans that she’s missing out on all the action, and sees not much more of the elusive Dr. Lindley, we’re finally treated to some action! A boat crashes off shore during the local festival, and one of the passengers is found to have smallpox, so now Terry and the long-absent Dr. Lindley, returned a moment ago from Cannes, are to help vaccinate the village. But the crazy townspeople are under the impression that it’s bubonic plague that has washed ashore, and they are freaking out!!! Even Richard and his kids are flinging their Louis Vuitton cases pell-mell into the Mercedes and making for Paris! (They’re stopped by a roadblock set up for a quarantine, so back they slink in shame.) Bill heads for the clinic to do what little he can, like unpack boxes of medical supplies, since he does not have a license to practice medicine in France, and Terry goes downtown to help a French nurse quell a riot. Since Terry speaks little French, she is equally useless; all she can do is bolster the confidence of the shy nurse, who rises to the occasion and the day is saved!
This book is a waste of time. We are stuck in the villa most of the time and so take in little of the Riviera, which might at least provide some entertaining armchair travel. We are not at all invested in Terry’s devotion to the elusive Dr. Bill, so we share none of her anguish at his apparent disinterest and no joy at his (surprise) change of heart. The patient and his family are not appealing, even when they’re being snarky and mean, and the “excitement” of the end seems downright dopey, since smallpox is now a thing of the past and government laboratories, and the bubonic plague only makes me think of the Monty Python skit (“Bring out your dead!”). Even the trumped-up crisis of the ending shows us nothing about our heroine, and her and Bill’s part in it seems fairly trivial, even silly (Terry spurs the timid nurse to courage by fingering the veil of her nurse’s cap, which is supposed to remind her of the importance of her calling as a nurse). The writing is flat, and it wasn’t until page 110 that I found one small snippet to offer you as a Best Quote. Jane Converse is capable of putting out a great book, but not, apparently, on the Riviera.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Nurse to Marry

By Patti Carr, ©1967
There should have been nothing unusual about a young, handsome multi-millionaire having a hobby. But in Nicholas Meers’ case there was. His hobby was collecting wives—and number five had already cost him a lot more than he bargained for … physically, emotionally and financially. As a nurse, Carol Drake felt sorry for the man. As a woman, she felt confused. And as the rumors began to fly that she would be the sixth Mrs. Meers, she felt herself becoming inextricably involved in a case that could not only destroy her career, but her dreams of happiness—forever.
“Money puts one above the bother of being polite.”
“Hal Brent ordered: ‘Pucker, please.’ ”
It’s not often you get to meet such a collection of nutcases in a single novel, all of them passed off as normal human beings. Our own heroine, Carol Drake, proves herself to be rather unsympathetic right off the bat when she is rudely condescending to her nurse roommate, who’s having a hard time with nursing. According to the all-knowing Carol, Pat isn’t cut out for the profession because she was raised by well-off academics; farm-raised girls like herself, Carol thinks, are best suited for nursing. So when Pat sighs that it’s hard taking care for terminally ill patient, sympathetic Carol snaps, “Be a play nurse in some ad for Noxema if you want just the uniform rather than the work.” I’m not sure why the author felt this would be a helpful addition to the character’s backstory.
As the book opens, Carol has been sent to deliver papers explaining a potential business deal to multimillionaire Nicholas Meers, who will only see “dollies” and not bankers like Carol’s fiancĂ© Hal Brent, who is desperate to obtain Meers’s backing. Meers is so outrageously out of touch with the real world that upon arriving at the bench on his estate where she is waiting for him, he tells her, “Presently, I may converse with you. I’ve not made up my mind.” So the pair sits in silence until her pressing schedule forces her to hand over the papers. During their ensuing short conversation, he can’t remember the names of his wives, refers to himself in the third person, and tells her, “I permit women to smoke in my presence.” Her impression of him, therefore, is that “he’s young, fairly attractive, and very rich,” and she can understand why so many women want to marry him. And so the rumors that she’s to be his sixth are born.
And when the otherwise perfectly healthy Meers is admitted to the hospital for some unspecified tests that will take weeks, Carol gets the job of specialing him. She doesn’t have much to do, since there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with Meers, and though talk swirls of a desperately needed psych consult—ordered after Meers attempts to shoot himself in the head and misses—it never materializes. But while on the job, she learns that Helen Meers, the current wife, has some unspecified hold on her husband that makes him incapable of divorcing her. He’d like to, we are told, because when he attempted to assault her, she fought back with a hard blow to the solar plexus that left him gasping. This is presented as the crowning evidence of Helen’s deviousness, regardless of the fact that this is a pretty clear-cut case of self-defense. Then Carol is sent on a three-day drive to Vancouver to retrieve an envelope from Meers’s safe, which he instantly shreds the minute it’s delivered into his hands back at the hospital.
But what the document was is never revealed. It’s presumed to have been a will, but who cares? Mrs. Meers’s hold over her husband also vaporizes when he offers her a divorce and a paltry $100,000 or enforced residence at one of his homes in India; apparently living in any other of his many homes makes her guilty of abandoning him, and never mind that Mr. Meers has no intention of living in India himself, so if she were there, the pair would still be separated. Carol, for her part, advises Mrs. Meers, “All you have to do is be a proper wife to Mr. Meers. He needs someone who cares about him.” Um, sure. That and a lengthy stay at a psych hospital.
But it’s all moot on the very next page, when Mr. Meers, now out of the hospital, succeeds with his second suicide attempt, a drowning at sea. So what’s the point of the story? Damned if I can figure that out, so this book, annoying at the outset, just remains true to form straight through to the end. As with Ms. Carr’s other book, TV Nurse, I didn’t care for the characters and couldn’t even really find much of a plot worth pursuing. Don’t waste your time with this irritating throwaway.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Nurse Carol

By Maud McCurdy Welch, ©1955
Carol Gabrielson, one of the prettiest student nurses at Riverview Memorial, was about to be graduated when Dr. Steve Barrett returned to the hospital to be resident physician—and her own boss. Steve had helped her through her first student days, and now that he was back, her world seemed wonderfully complete. At least it was until she learned he was to marry lovely Angela Ashby, daughter of the head of Riverview. Carol threw herself into her work with increased dedication, but despite her demanding job and the attentions of other attractive men, she couldn’t stop thinking about Steve—somehow he didn’t look like a man in love, but a man troubled by a dark secret …
“I’m having a nervous breakdown, or perhaps I’m falling in love. The symptoms are similar, aren’t they?”
“Honey, your figure is something you read about in the ads.”
“If you weren’t so darn pretty, I’d be mad at you.”
“Maybe it looked that way, but she wasn’t trying the old trick of domesticity and good food to get a man away from another girl.”
“All women are alike when it comes to men. There’s only one.”
“You think coffee can solve all the problems of the universe.”
Carol Gabrielson has such a cumbersome last name that the staff calls her “Miss G,” and one recurring joke is the string of patients who always manage to mangle it. The 1950s were such simple times; what would they have made of Zbigniew Brzezinski? But somehow Carol manages to stagger along under the weight of such a burden. She’s doing better at book’s open because her childhood friend, Dr. Steve Barrett, has come back to the hospital after a year’s absence, about which he will say nothing, and not only because no one, including his dear friend Carol, ever seems to have tried asking him where he was. She’s just graduated from the nursing school, and has started working as a private duty nurse because she wasn’t asked to join the staff, though everyone wanted her and is very upset that she wasn’t. It turns out that the chief of staff’s daughter, who is maneuvering to marry Steve and is jealous of his brotherly attentions to Carol, somehow managed to block her hire. It does make me concerned for the hospital’s future that they let a non-employee barely out of her teens make these sorts of decisions.
But Carol lands on her feet when she takes an apartment with fellow nurse Lora Breck, a mopey sort who appears unstable and is given to staring off into space and saying things like, “Love can—can make you go a little crazy.” We watch the young ladies renovate their new home into a pleasant retreat complete with a parakeet named Pip that sings songs and talks—he’s quite a parakeet! From here they set off for this job and that job, Carol all the while trying to fend off the wealthy, persistent cad Bill Lennox, who keeps insisting that she marry him. One of her patients is the difficult Mrs. Perrin, who after a few days of wearing Carol to rags takes a terrible turn. Her son Andrew is called in from San Francisco—and he turns out to have been Lora’s fiancĂ© at one time, but Lora had broken the engagement because his domineering mother objected to the match. Though Andrew tries to win Lora back, Lora plans to marry another man she’s been seeing, a worthless check who is minutes away from being indicted on fraud charges.
Carol, meanwhile, is growing increasingly jealous of the catty Angela, who snubs Carol at every opportunity. The pair’s engagement is finally announced in the papers, and Carol is forced to admit to herself that—gasp!—she’s in love with Steve! But I shouldn’t poke too much fun, because here the “shocking” revelation that has been clear to us from page one actually plays out with sincerity and comes across as far less contrived as it does in most other VNRNs.
I need say no more about the plot, as it plays out predictably. Even the reason for Steve’s disappearance is something you probably guessed at. But if it is obvious, I was relieved to find that author M.M. Welch managed to find a different plot here, as the other two books I have read, Nurses Marry Doctors and Country Nurse, shared the same one. And it’s a pleasant read: There are the occasional witticisms along the way, such as when Steve asks Carol, “I suppose you’d call that—er, contraption on your head a hat, or wouldn’t you?” and she replies, “If it isn’t, somebody gypped me out of ten dollars and tax.” The gentle, amiable air of most VNRNs from the 1950s, including Ms. Welch’s prior two, pervades this book as well, and Carol’s comings and goings are enjoyable to watch. Even if it won’t land on the Best Novels list on January 1, 2015, you could do a lot worse than spend an afternoon with Nurse Carol.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Girl in the White Cap

By Margaret Howe, ©1957
Assignment: With complications ...
Kate Mallory was pretty and red-headed, but as old Dr. John said, “there was no nonsense about her.” That is why he chose her as the nurse for the Vincent case.
The Vincents were a powerful family, and Kate knew that caring for a crippled child in their isolated mansion would be demanding, but her job was not made easier by—
Sam Vincent—the handsome, charming widower who came to need and depend on Kate.
Dr. Sargent—suave and successful, who came to see the baby, but was much more interested in his nurse.
Dr. Peter Vincent—who treated her as a teammate, but who turned out to be the most troubling of all.
“It’s a relief to see a girl with naturally curly hair; also, something that approaches a real female figure.”
“I don’t want every man present to regard my girl as though she were a lollipop.”
Visiting Nurse was a top-ten VNRN of 2011, which has made me eagerly search out more books by Margaret Howe (see also Special Nurse and Debutante Nurse). Unfortunately, none has lived up to the promise of that first book, and The Girl in the White Cap is more of the same disappointment.
Kate Mallory is a nurse at Vincent Memorial on the OB/GYN ward, caring for the nasty hussy Rita Vincent—she’s married one of those Vincents—who is going into premature labor. She’s pissed as hell that being pregnant has ruined her figure, and none too happy that when she gets it back she’ll be saddled with a squalling brat. Or that the nanny will be. But Rita won’t give us too much trouble—she’s dead six pages in, leaving an overly distraught widower, Sam Vincent, with nought to do but hire Kate to care for his son Daniel.
At home, Sam has nothing to do with the baby; he’s too busy struggling with his conscience, for his physician has decided that it’s Sam’s fault that his wife died: “He indulged her and humored her and accepted her tantrums. High tension and hysterics are poor preparation for what that girl faced.” Making his grief all the more insurmountable is the fact that Daniel has club feet. “A normal child might have healed Sam’s hurt in time, reconciling him to his loss. But what about a child with crooked, deformed feet?” Instead of a romance, this book should be a mystery story—see if you can understand why Sam loved Rita and despises Daniel, and why Kate Mallory is going to tumble hard for a gloomy, rude curmudgeon.
On duty 24/7, Kate soon is hopelessly devoted to baby Daniel—though we seldom see the two together. It wouldn’t be hard at all to draw us a few bonding scenes to demonstrate her attachment to the infant, but instead we’re mostly told about her fondness for him. She’s so fond, in fact, that she decides to leave her post, so that it won’t destroy her to leave him later on. Get it? She tells everyone she’s going, and they even find a replacement nurse—a young colleague of Kate’s who has made no secret of her plans to attempt to win the heart of the rich widower—and then she changes her mind at the last minute, leaving the hospital gossips abuzz with the idea that Kate is in love with Sam. Which she is, but whatever. To squelch those rumors, she dates the baby’s pediatrician, Dr. Ray Sargent, who is one of the creepiest characters I’ve met in a VNRN, who practically screams, “I’m a date rapist!” as he ushers Kate into the car. Having barely escaped one date with him by fleeing on the tractor of a passing farmer, she naturally agrees to see him again but is saved when the baby’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Peter Vincent, tells everyone that Kate is engaged to marry him. What a mess!
The ending is a bit of a surprise, though it all makes sense in a satisfying way. But it’s generally a slow read, and if Margaret Howe’s prose is pleasant, it has little witticism or humor here, and not much more of a plot. It’s not a bad book, but it doesn’t really have anything to recommend it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Nurse Lily and Mister X

By Diane Frazer, ©1961
Cover illustration by Jerry Allison
Her first impression was a huge head with silver-white hair, a bristling mustache and fierce eyes. It was like seeing the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum for the first time after having looked at it hundreds of times in magazines or on post cards. Lily’s professional smile was frozen on her lips. Usually she would approach a patient briskly, her hand outstretched, and introduce herself. She had been taught how to do it in nursing school—with just the right amount of cheerfulness. But this was a man who simply didn’t lend himself to this kind of approach. This was a man who had terrorized the White House, a man even the President was said to be afraid of…
“The most perfectly recovered patient necessarily suffers a relapse when confronted with the bill.”
“Dr. DeVries is still in Paris, isn’t he? Cutting up some important Frenchman or other.”
“Do you girls have to wear those white stockings? It ruins the nicest legs.”
“Can you tell me, please, where to go, nurse? I have a bad case of breaking heart and I need very special care.”
“People in love are always a little bit nauseating.”
This nurse novel has it all: wit, intelligence, camp, brisk pacing, a bit of intrigue, and—the cherry on top—a fabulous title and cover illustration. If you read no other VNRN this year, make it this one (or Nurse into Woman; that would be another good choice).
Lily Sorenson has been chose to special a patient whose presence at Physicians Hospital in New York must remain top secret—hence his designation as “Mister X.” He’s a lion of an international diplomat, along the lines of a Kissinger or a Churchill, who will be negotiating a major treaty in a few weeks. If his enemies find out he is in the hospital recovering from “a delicate operation,” this might undermine his position at the conference and affect global politics for generations to come, because he’s that important. But his recovery is going to take weeks, and during the bulk of this time he’s not allowed visitors, phone calls, newspapers, or television. And that’s not going over well.
But fortunately, Lily is an excellent nurse and a stunning beauty—Mister X is “a connoisseur and a fervent admirer of feminine beauty”—so she alone of all the nurses in New York stands a chance of subduing the great man, who has already roared two other nurses off the job in as many days. Indeed, in minutes, after denying him the newspaper he’s demanding at top volume, Lily has him eating out of her hand. While this is a common plot device in VNRNs, Lily actually deserves it. She has no interest in giving up her career for marriage, banters cleverly with her friends and colleagues, and corrects a State Department official who says that everyone who knows of Mister X’s true identity must keep his mouth shut—“or her,” Lily answers smartly.
With little else to do but sleep, Mister X soon takes an interest in Lily’s personal life, which features a new young man, Andrew Carlton. Mr. Carlton is a reporter who has heard of the hush-hush goings on at the hospital and is introduced to Lily at a party by the young nurse he is dating by way of pumping her for information. He’s instantly smitten with Lily, and recognizes that this poses a serious dilemma: Should he pursue the woman or the scoop? because he can’t have both.
Lily is equally taken with Andrew, and the pair spends a lot of time in silence at her apartment: “ ‘Oh, Andrew,’ she said, after a while.” She’s feeding him misinformation about her patient, as directed by the great X himself, who tells her, “Compared to your love life, Lily, affairs of state become mere trivia.” It’s a comedy of intrigue, deception, and even human interest as we—and Nurse Lily and Mr. X—watch Andrew to find out how he is going to play the cards he is being calculatingly dealt. The story wraps up very neatly, with the final maneuvering by Mr. X putting everything to rights, and the actual ending is as pretty as VNRNs ever get.
The dialogue is superb, starts early, and never lets up. You know you are in for a great ride when Lily is called to the chief of surgery’s office on page five, and a colleague asks if she has done something awful. “Let’s see,” Lily replies. “I was picked up by a patrol car early this morning, lying drunk in the gutter. But they can’t possibly know that already.” This book reminds me of Glenna Finlay’s Nurse Pro Tem, in that they both feature that snappy dialogue reminiscent of a film from 1942. The plot is light and easy, but has enough heft with the question of Andrew’s character to keep it from completely blowing away in the breeze. It would be a perfect companion to a preferably uninterrupted summer afternoon with cosmo, but don’t let lack of either preventing you from enjoying this delightful little book.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Student Nurse

By Renee Shann, ©1941
Cover illustration by Victor Kalin
When lovely young Shirley Davidson ran away from her tyrannical father, fate (and the kindness of Matron Anna Marsden) fulfilled her lifelong dream—she became a student nurse. Then, as if she weren’t already bursting with happiness, she fell in love. But there were complications (and heartbreak) ahead. For handsome Dr. Gerald Trent, though irresistibly drawn to Shirley, was already engage to Anna Marsden. And Shirley would rather die than do anything to hurt the woman she worshiped, who had given her her first chance for a decent life.
“I’ve an idea that the only sensible thing is to be crazy.”
“One needs to have one’s heart in one’s job, otherwise it’s impossible to make a real success of it.”
“Luckily one’s best beloved never saw one at the hairdresser’s. At least, not if one had any sense.”
“In all lives there are times when one has just to sit tight and wait until one feels better.”
Anna Marsden is the 35-year-old matron of the Gresham Nursing Home, one of London’s most prestigious hospitals. She’s had this job for two years—won it after a lengthy battle within the hospital board, in which trustee Howard Bleston prevailed—and feels a great deal of dedication to her job and to Howard for awarding it to her. Her fiance, though, Dr. Gerald Trent, hates her job and wants her to chuck it and marry him. She knows that “she needed some form of self-expression other than running a house and ordering meals and being decorative at her husband’s dinner table. She too wanted a career and the knowledge that she was doing something useful in the world. Gerald had said lightly and a little reproachfully that looking after him was something useful.” Why she continues to see him is a bit of a mystery.
He’s to leave for a prestigious fellowship in New York, and has asked her to quit her job and come with him as his bride. She’s all set to do it when Howard’s wife, the horrible Hilary Bleston, arrives to recover, again, from drug addiction, which will take at least three months. Given her loyalty to the husband, Anna feels she must see the wife through this crisis, and tells Dr. Trent that she can’t go with him. His ardor noticeably cools.
Enter Shirley Davidson, at 17 about half Dr. Trent’s age. She has arrived at the hospital by jumping into Anna’s car at a traffic light and urging her to drive on, because she’s running away from a life of crime forced upon her by her ogre of a father. Anna takes Shirley in and gives her a job as a nursing student, and Shirley is hopelessly star-struck with her devotion to Anna for her kindness. But upon clapping eyes on Dr. Gerald Trent, she’s hopelessly star-struck with her infatuation with the man. Since his engagement to Anna is a secret—and Gerald helpfully never mentions it to Shirley—she gratefully accepts his dates and kisses. It’s just a matter of time, however, before she finds out that Gerald belongs to Anna, and then she calls it off in an utter panic. It’s just a matter of more time, then, until Anna finds out that Shirley is in love with Gerald. Shirley quits the hospital and disappears into London’s  seedy underbelly so as to clear the field for Anna, but that great lady decides—after some indecision that leaves the reader a little nervous for a second—that she’s through with Gerald.
Everything ends well for everyone, of course, and in a wholly predictable way, but that’s not always a bad thing, especially not here, because the writing is very fine. The characters and their motivations and anguish are drawn quite beautifully, in a way that is particularly unique to VNRNs from the 1940s, as this one is. If Shirley’s character is given to flightiness and exaggeration of emotion, she is, after all, only 17, and can reasonably be expected to be both. Hilary Bleston, a nasty shrew, is fun to watch, especially as she overhears her friends gossiping about her at the beauty shop. Student Nurse is a slow book, perhaps overly so at 223 pages, and this really is its biggest flaw, but it’s not a fatal one. As long as you’re not in a hurry, this book will be a pleasant diversion.