Saturday, July 13, 2019

Reluctant Nurse

By Anne Lorraine, ©1959

Nursing is a splendid career—but it must be chosen for the right reasons. A girl who is not suited to it, however hard she tries, might lead a more useful life elsewhere. That was Carol’s problem. Was she a born nurse? Should she return to dancing? Or would love and marriage provide a third way out?



“You look so lovely when you’re annoyed, darling!”

“That is the  beauty of this life—you can always be pretty sure that, whatever your problem is, hundreds of other people are going through the very same trouble.”

“Whenever Doctor Foreday visits our hospital, pet, half the nurses run temperatures!”

Carol Lloyd is the daughter of a very successful doctor who is kind of an asshole. He’s always brushing Carol off for more important things, and he makes it plain that he prefers her younger brother Stephen, who is destined to become a doctor the minute he was born sporting a penis. Carol, then, becomes housemaid and secretary to the pair, and studies dancing. The opening chapter, she’s performing a dance she has created herself (she even wrote the music, which includes violins, talented gal), and she’s sure to finally convince her father that she needs to pursue a career in dancing—but an emergency calls the doctor and Stephen from the audience—and then they suffer a car crash en route to the hospital. Pulled from a café where she’s was just offered a chance to be a big star by Kevin Knight, a talent scout who’d been in the audience, she flies to the hospital and finds Stephen already dead and Dad on his way out. On his deathbed, he forces Carol to promise to carry on the family tradition and go into medicine.

Bizarrely, she decides to chuck her big chance at success as a dancer and go into nursing, even though she’s terrible at it and hates it. Far too many pages of indecision ensue—should she drop out of nursing? How could she break her promise? Did Dad always think she would make a great nurse, but never mentioned it until that fatal moment? Kevin keeps popping up to take her dancing and pressure her to quit nursing, and also to marry him, because “I’m in love with the real Carol—the girl who danced her way into my heart.” Through it all everyone is reminding her how bad she is as a nurse, and she’s always dropping kidney basins and breaking thermometers. So she decides that she’s going to drop out after exams and go back to dancing, which somehow satisfies her promise even if she passes the exams—which she does, apparently by the skin of her teeth.

Except now—you guessed it—she’s back to waffling again: “Surely, by proving that she could be a nurse, she had more or less committed herself to fulfil her promise to her father to its ultimate end?” Meanwhile, she’s become sort of a sounding board to Dr. Alan Foreday, who likes to talk out his medical cases with someone who can’t contribute at all to the conversation. When he’s not blathering on while Carol silently listens, he’s snapping sharply at her on the wards for all her terrible gaffes, like speaking to him. “To her shocked amazement he frowned at her, and his voice, when he spoke, was curt to the point of rudeness.” Miserably for her future patients, she’s decided to forge ahead with nursing and give up dancing forever when the man who was driving the car that smashed into her father’s is brought in, and he needs a brain surgery that’s only been attempted once—by Dr. Foreday—and he’d failed—and it was on a woman he was in love with—

Foreday is about to refuse to do the surgery when Carol overcomes her hatred of the man and begs him to try, and completely out of the blue Dr. Foreday tells her he loves her, though he has not heard her speak more than ten sentences, and most of those were, “Yes, Doctor.” She then suddenly recognizes that she loves Dr. Foreday: “Now, with the knowledge of Alan’s love for her, and hers for him, she knew she wanted only one thing from life … to be with Alan, and to do what pleased him!” After that horrible scene, Carol is even more committed to being a bad nurse. Until Alan tells her that he really wants her to go back to dancing, because apparently that’s really what her father wanted her to do all along, he just had never mentioned it and had been incredibly patronizing about her dancing to her face. Alan just wants her to be happy: “I want you to be yourself—because that’s how I love you.” Next thing you know, a major producer is on the line offering her a part that will make her a permanent show biz legend! Slow curtain, the end!

It’s a pity that I read this book immediately after I finished Make up Your Mind, Nurse, because they both have the same formula, and it’s not a good one: The nurse is being forced to do something she doesn’t want to do, but should she keep with it? It’s not interesting, it’s not suspenseful, it’s not enjoyable—it’s just irritating. Right from the opening pages I wanted to smack Carol Lloyd upside the head, and there are 192 in total to wade through. If Carol was reluctant to become a nurse, you should be more reluctant to read this book.

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