Sunday, July 28, 2019

Paper Halo

By Kate Norway, pseud. Olive Norton, ©1970
Cover illustration by Bern Smith

Nurse Toffy [sic] collected men-friends easily, while her friend Nurse Clare was shy and fastidious. It was unfortunate that, because of a misunderstanding, the one man who attracted her gained the very opposite impression of Clare—and disapproved of her accordingly.


“That’s the trouble with men: you have to watch what you ask for, because they’re only too ready to be little gentlemen and supply it.”

“I smiled at the front-row patients to show them I had them well in mind. Two of them smiled back; the rest went on studying my shoes in that disconcerting way they have.”

“I’d long since learned not to be surprised at the speed with which the grapevine assimilated facts, like an insect-eating plant gobbling up its prey.”

I started this book and then had to put it down for a bit when I went on a long hiking vacation, and when I came back to it I couldn’t remember much of it, so I started over. How lucky for me that this is such a truly superlative book!

Nurse Clare Kennedy has actually been out of school for enough years that she has amassed a truly impressive body of experience. We watch her expertly staff a busy clinic and serve in a role more like that of a PA in the ED, making diagnoses, suturing wounds, and initiating treatment plans with complete skill, accuracy, and aplomb.

The only issue she has is that she is not impressed with the opposite sex. She’s had a couple of run-ins early on with boys who assaulted her in the name of love, and it’s left her pretty cool. Her roommate, Torfy, who is a more freewheeling type, tries to explain that kissing boys is perfectly acceptable, a hobby indulged in by “ordinary people. Like you and me, for example. Just people who enjoy petting in cars, that’s all. And a lot of perfectly ordinary and quite nice people do, you know. In fact they always did.” Clare is not buying it, however, especially after she is mauled again after the big nurse’s dance. “I’m not odd,” she tells Torfy, who clearly thinks otherwise. “But I just don’t want them to take it for granted that if I’m nice to them it means I want them to paw me.”

The only man she’s ever had eyes for, and the only gentleman she’s ever met, is Dr. Neil Sargent, who escorts Clare home after the big dance. But after their one brief drive, she doesn’t see him again for years. When they do next meet, he’s popping down to the ED to see a patient she’s requested help for from the covering doc—not realizing it’s her old heartthrob—just as Dr. Kenyon Fiske is pinning her down for her fourth assault. Clare manages to beat Ken away, but Neil, walking in as it is transpiring, thinks she’s pushing the doctor away because she’s embarrassed at having been caught in the clinch. He then looks with suspicion—a little too much, methinks—on her every interaction with anyone of the male persuasion. Clare’s a friendly person, too, so there’s always a copper sitting down to a cuppa in the ED after he’s hauled in an assault victim, or a resident to have lunch with at the end of a long night shift.

You know how it’s going to play out, and it does delightfully. The writing here is sharp, as in, “Sister folded away her smile,” and, “She slid a look at Torfy.” It’s written in the first person, and has a very amusing sense of humor, so at first I thought this book must have been written by the Marjorie Lewty, who gave us the excellent Town Nurse—Country Nurse, and though this book could be a sister to Lewty’s, it is a different author, but one who also penned another winner, Factory Nurse. I appreciated the realism of the hospital setting, such as when Clare “switched on the kettle and fetched the milk from the blood fridge”; the nurses I’ve known do enjoy serving popcorn in a bedpan. Clare is easily one of the most intelligent heroines I’ve ever met, and this book was sweet, smart, and much too short. Olive Norton has firmly established herself on my list of best VNRN authors, and I look forward to more of her books.

No comments:

Post a Comment