Sunday, August 1, 2021

Wanted—One Nurse

By Joanna Grey, ©1977

Celia Price’s new life in New York as a nurse to a struggling young doctor meant complete freedom from her English mother’s old-fashioned ideas. But it also meant imprisonment by feelings which she tried to suppress for Dr. Eric Adamson, feelings which she rationalized as respect for him as a skilled doctor. But Celia didn’t fool herself one bit! It was love. With no interest from Eric in return, the only direction she could take was away from him. Yet, could she run away from life again? 


“New York could turn you daffy, and in a very short time, at that.” 

I felt no small amount of apprehension when I realized this book was copyrighted in 1977; VNRNs tend to get worse the more recently they were written. (Six of the seven reviews of books written in 1975 or later got C- grades, while the earliest VNRN I have found, “K,” which dates to 1916, got an A.) The trend continues with this dud. 

Here we have gratuitously British Nurse Celia Price, who has been living in New York at 85 West 88th Street in New York City, deciding to work for Dr. Eric Adamson at 226 West 89th Street. He’s setting up a new practice that hasn’t actually opened yet, so they wash the walls and baseboards of his office and go shopping for carpet and linoleum. After the doors have opened, they take care of the patients who trickle in at a gradually increasing rate. Eventually Eric takes Celia for a picnic and, the poor dolt, does not kiss her at a moment when she was hoping to be kissed. This proves to be a fatal mistake for poor Dr. Adamson. “The bitter disappointment and hurt that Celia felt was like a physical pain. As well as that, she felt betrayed. It had taken some courage, and some difficulty, to bring herself to the point where she had to admit that her feelings for this appealing young man went far beyond what was normally expected of an employee. And then, having struggled with her conscience, and forced herself to look at the truth of the matter, he had turned away from her.” This “total rejection” renders her cold and snippy for the next four weeks. Undaunted, he asks her to go to Shakespeare in the Park with him, but she shows him who’s boss when she turns him down—and then “it upset her that he had not asked her again. When she noticed in the paper that the season had ended, she felt that it was almost a personal affront to her.”

In the interim, her roommate Joan meets Eric and they go for drinks while Celia does a slow burn at home. Then she meets his roommate, Mike, and “not that she was thinking of Mike in any romantic way,” but she hopes he might date her. He drops by her apartment and meets Jean, “her hair wet and straggly, her body anything but curvaceous under her shapeless robe,” but within a few hours the two “were completely and totally in love.” So Celia is back to being “curt and short” with Eric even though he remains completely magnanimous, and even takes her to lunch to try to get her to tell him why she’s being so horrid. She doesn’t, but at least she defrosts enough to agree to go with him and Jean and Mike on vacation to a cabin in the mountains. Not surprisingly, Mike falls into a ditch en route to the cabin and breaks his leg, so Eric and Celia are at the cabin alone, which is a shocking risk for her reputation, and there’s a long, dull scene in which Celia becomes increasingly enraged that Eric won’t take her back to New York as he lies smugly on the sofa with his eyes closed. Guess how it ends?

Time and time again, Eric proves himself to be a much bigger person, while Celia is irritatingly small and petty. No sensible reader could possibly understand what drives him to continue to pursue her, but there it is. I wasn’t sure I understood why author Joanna Grey devoted the hours it must have taken to phone in this soggy lump. Some books are so bad they’re good (see Harbor Nurse, A Nurse at the Fair), but this one is just dull, to the point that I was grateful on multiple occasions while I was reading it that it was only 124 pages, and the font not overly small. I can only hope Grey didn’t write any more VNRNs, or if she did, that they were written in the 1930s.

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