Monday, September 14, 2020

Nurse in Charge

By Elizabeth Gilzean, ©1959

When Jane was put temporarily in charge of Rossiter Ward, the senior surgeon thought her too young for the job, and said so. It was an irresistible challenge and Jane was determined to prove to him that—just for once—he was mistaken.



“Were all men fools, or did they really enjoy being offered the obvious?”

“Jane knew her prayer was not only for Sister Meadows’ sake but for the tall surgeon who had winced when he had had to offer her a small prick …”

“I never knew my ward sister had a brain as well! I see where I’ll have to watch my step.”



Jane Scott has just been promoted to staff nurse (a step up from junior nurse in the United Kingdom) when three months later, the ward sister (chief nurse) of Rossiter Ward, Sister Meadows (who unfortunately is never given a first name) is stricken with some sort of spinal tumor and Jane, at the tender age of 24, is made ward sister—something almost scandalous given her mere three years of experience. Certainly Dr. Ian Crawford, the 38-year-old surgical chief, thinks so; “You’re very young to be in charge,” he tells her condescendingly at their first meeting. Not the most vicious of put-downs, but “she still quivered with indignation at the memory of the way he had told her by look and word that she was too young for the job.” Nonetheless, just a few pages later, when resident Dr. Douglas Stievers, a bit of a cad who has been chasing Jane with an intensity that in today’s world would be called harassment, tells Jane that he’s in love with her and Ian overhears, “she had the odd sensation that his words were shutting and locking a door that had never really been open.” Don’t you worry, you silly little VNRN heroine! Never mind that he’s 14 years older and perpetually looking at you with “coldness in his face,” it’s simply meant to be!

I’m not convinced that there’s any real need to review the ensuing 160 pages of plot, but there’s a nasty nurse nemesis named Megan, who’s been kicked off the ward previously due to bad behavior—the details of which are puzzled over frequently but never revealed—who repeats a lot of gossipy lies about Jane and her platonic men friends; there’s wealthy, beautiful patient Gail who seems to be scheming to capture both Douglas and Ian; there’s Douglas persisting at virtually every page that Jane marry him and her pathetic if short-lived attempts to talk herself into marrying him given what she  believes to be her non-existent chances with Ian; there’s Ian’s increasing interest in Jane that she stupidly cannot be convinced of despite how incredibly obvious it is; there’s the ongoing obstacle of misunderstanding about Jane and Douglas’ relationship that impedes her progress with Ian. In other words, same old, same old.

The writing is easy and pleasant, with interesting characters—Jane, fortunately, a competent, efficient, admirable nurse being one of them; Ian, as per the VNRN norm, not—but more than 50 pages from the end Ian asks Jane to dinner at his house, and from then on their mutual regard is mostly assured, outside of a few pages of Jane’s quite irritating and baseless insecurities. Ian doesn’t help matters by running hot and frigid toward her for the rest of the book—perennially apologizing when hot: “Poor little Jane! Was I sounding cross again? I must watch myself,” and then doing it again five pages later. The last quarter of the book is contriving to whip up crises that quickly come to nothing and so drags not a little. Which means that if mostly easygoing and engaging, the book does creep into dull and irritating at the end. We’re spared the knowledge that Jane will be quitting her job after marriage—that decision is never discussed with us—but I can’t heartily endorse this book as anything special or a must-read. If “pleasant enough” is damning with faint praise, then damn I  must.

No comments:

Post a Comment