Against a background of life and death in a hospital, with its intrigue, triumphs and heartaches, emerges the story of Natalie Barlow, a beautiful young nurse, bitterly disillusioned by the inconsistencies of life. Natalie’s struggle to overcome her personal problems and to take her place among the gallant women whose devotion to duty, loyalty and spirit of self-sacrifice are a source of inspiration to her, forms a vivid and compelling picture of the drama that is a nurse’s everyday life.
“Don’t sacrifice your own life for that of your offspring. It’s not only a waste but a detriment as well.”
“It’s one of my favorite pastimes—eating. It—well—it does something to me.”
“A dress could make all the difference.”
“Is it that you don’t care for cocktails? Neither do I, but one must keep abreast of the times.”
“It’s only in books men make those noble gestures.”
“He had it in him to be a great doctor. It was too bad he was so good-looking—so charming and that he was well-to-do. If he had been poor and ugly, he would have undoubtedly become famous. But perhaps he had no desire to be famous. Perhaps he was perfectly satisfied with himself as he was. She was inclined to believe that it was. What a waste!”
“Mine not to reason why—mine but to do and grouse.”
“Once upon a time I was a good, sweet girl—before I entered training to become a nurse. Would you ever have thought it?”
Talk about harsh openers: Right on page one, Natalie Barlow is being jilted by her fiance’s mother. Overseas for the war, Geoff Mercer has apparently found someone Sweder to love, and has delegated the task of relaying this information to Mrs. Mercer, who is overjoyed to do it. This turns our ridiculously sweet heroine into a bitter pill where men are concerned. She remains, however, a devoted and highly skilled nurse at the hospital, befriending old Judy Stark, who is the matriarch of a wealthy but cold-hearted family. Judy has a grandson, Eben Stark, who is Judy’s favorite and actually a standup guy. Natalie, however, resists him mightily because of her prejudice about the other family members.
When Natalie is not nursing patients and resisting Eben’s gentle advances, she’s hanging out with her witty best friend, Beatrice Horne, who calls ’em as she sees ’em in the finest VNRN BF tradition, and says things like, “So he actually had the intestinal fortitude to call all by himself. Brave lad! No wonder he got a medal in the late unpleasantness!” She has dates with some of the fellows now and then but falls for none of them—and then Geoff Mercer turns up again, partially crippled and blinded by war, and attempts to win Natalie back, largely by accompanying his mother when she visits Natalie, and remaining silent. It’s a brilliant strategy, but somehow Natalie manages to resist. As the number of her dates thins, she becomes increasingly forlorn, but not to worry: Eventually the right man turns up and claims her as “Mine—mine—mine!” in what is unfortunately one of the lamer moments of the book. Skip the last page, however, and this is an entirely satisfying book in the soft and sweet vein of older VNRNs (see also Doctor’s Wife, Nurse Into Woman, Visiting Nurse, District Nurse, Surgical Call, “K”—how I could go on—), a pleasant walk along a shady country lane with a good friend.
Lucy Agnes Hancock has the capacity to be a brilliant writer (If you have not read Graduate Nurse, you should!), and here we find a fine example of her work. Short on plot, maybe, when the book is this enjoyable, who really cares? The characters are the kind of people you are sorry to see leave the room, and the interwoven stories of patients are interesting slices of other lives that don’t always turn out as expected. Add a fantastic cover and Nurse Barlow is a complete package.