Friday, February 12, 2016

Nurse with a Past

By Diane Frazer 
(pseud. Dorothy Fletcher), ©1964
Cover illustration by Harry Bennett

“Let’s leave Nancy alone, shall we? She’s a nice girl. Maybe she’s shy.”
“Shy!” Midge shrieked. “Now I’ve heard everything. Her Highness shy! Why, she’s conceited and snobbish. Apparently we’re not good enough for her.”
“Oh, Midge, you don’t even mean that,” Minerva protested. “She’s a little bit nuts about
meddcin, as she calls it. She really wanted to hang out a shingle herself.”
“Stop it,” Midge answered, “we’ve all heard that sob story. If you ask me, it’s just a front. She doesn’t give a damn about a career. What she really wants is a man with money. But real money. If she finds one, you’ll see how quickly she forgets about doctors and nurses!”

GRADE: A-

BEST QUOTES:
“ ‘You make me want to cry,’ Ralph said. ‘What a hideous waste! A girl with legs like yours reading that kind of stuff.’ ”

“It wasn’t a bad place to work, the lab. Plenty of quiet corners for confabs with cute nurses.”

 “She had gone out with him twice, but one time didn’t really count because they had gone to a movie she had wanted to see, a movie called The Savage Eye, which left him shaky and unfit for normal pursuits afterward.”

“If you want to behave like a doctor, read Playboy, or something like that.”

“Who wants to leave the hospital, with nurses like you around?”

“Margaret Wilkerson had come to nursing through a simple process of elimination, more or less as young men of small talent decide to take up business administration in college instead of the humanities.”

REVIEW:
Nancy L. Woodward, RN, is 22 and has a reputation of being a bit of a snob. That’s because, well, she sort of is. Right there in the opening paragraph, she’s enjoying, and not just because it tastes so good, a slice of coconut cream pie, which, “she thought with some satisfaction, not all of her nurse colleagues could afford to indulge in.” Nancy had really wanted to be a doctor, but hadn’t been able to afford it, so had “settled for nursing as second best,” but once in, she now views nursing as “an almost holy vocation.” This loss and the fact that it was lack of money that caused it has made her a bit, shall we say, practical, and dedicated “to the idea of not wasting time with young men like Ralph Bleeker who, though decent and pleasant enough, was neither ambitious nor dedicated and who therefore would not go very far.”

This young man Ralph is a lowly lab technician. “You had to take in stride that Nancy was more than normally interested in medicine and science,” he thinks to himself. “He shrewdly catered to her strange dedication, hoping that in time she would get over it and become more interested in other things.” There’s also another nurse, Midge Wilkerson, who hates Nancy because Nancy has supplanted Midge’s place in Ralph’s affections. So Midge plots revenge by engaging Nancy to do some typing for Dr. Sonia Aronoff, who happens to be sharing a flat with Richard Chandler, son of a wealthy shipping magnate. Midge, who believes Nancy is only interested in marrying for money, is sure that Nancy will chase Richard—and Midge doesn’t mention to Nancy that Dick has been completely disinherited because he is only interested in art, not business. For his part, Dick takes one look at Nancy and is smitten—and sure enough, she soon is with him. Even though he tells her that he’s not going to inherit one dime of his father’s money.

The thing is, early in the book, she was asked to witness a new will—Orrin Chandler, aged wealthy cardiac patient, had rewritten his will after receiving a fatal diagnosis, leaving every bit of his fortune to his son, art career notwithstanding. She is eventually reminded of this incident, which she had forgotten—and responds by breaking up with Dick out of concern that he would believe that she was only interested in his money.

I need tell you not one thing more about the plot, because you well know how it ends. Its predictability, however, does not detract one whit from the complete pleasure. Diane Frazer is a hit-or-miss author, and has certainly given us a number of dogs (see Date with Danger?), but when she’s on, she has a wonderful ability to paint a scene or a character. In this book she is in top form, and her dialogue is amusing and snappy, right out of a Hepburn-Tracy movie. Her erratic output does make you wonder what makes a great writer produce a bad book (short on the rent?), but in Nurse with a Past, you are completely safe. 

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