All Change for Nurse Millie by Jean Fullerton

In brief: The second book featuring Millie Smith, this follows her life after marriage. Unfortunately, Millie is no stranger to calamity and trouble follows her again. How will she get by?

The good: A lovely story that is action packed, as well as nostalgic for the late 1940s/1950s.

The not-so-good: The title confused me a bit at first – I thought Millie was sidelining as a bus conductor. (You’ll understand the meaning of the title by the end).

Why I chose it: Enjoyed Call Nurse Millie and I’m a sucker for nurse books.

Year: 2014

Pages: 407

Publisher: Orion Books

Setting: England (primarily London’s East End)

My rating: 9.5 out of 10

I was really happy to see that there was a second Nurse Millie book after finishing Call Nurse Millie earlier this year. Millie had more than her fair share of scrapes in the first book, but it was still a fascinating look at London and nursing post World War II. I was hoping for more of the same in All Change for Nurse Millie, but was crossing my fingers that things would be a bit happier for poor Millie this time around. Not all of my wishes came true – it is an exciting time again at Munroe House as the nurses meet the challenge of the new National Health Service but Millie gets put through the wringer again in ways I’d never considered. It does make for action packed reading though!

The book opens as Millie and new husband Jim are both preparing for major changes in their lives – Jim plans to campaign for to be a MP for the Labour Party and Millie is hard at work preparing for the start of the NHS. Both are very busy, especially as Millie’s patients realise free health care is actually…free and Jim’s got a lot of people to wine and dine. They don’t see all that much of each other and a lot of Jim’s dinners end up in the rubbish. On the weekends, Millie supports her husband on the campaign trail, but then she begins to learn things about Jim that she really doesn’t like – a hotel tells Millie they’ve found her lost earring, but Millie was never there… Then Millie finds out she’s pregnant. Will she turn a blind eye or try to work through her problems?

If you know Millie, you know that she’s not afraid to meet things head on, whether it be her nursing superintendent or her husband. But this book sees Millie making decisions that are incredibly strong for a woman of her time, despite all and sundry telling her she’s mad. It reflects some of the attitudes of the time – it’s ‘okay’ to put up with a husband that hits you, as long as it’s not ‘too often’ (the definition of often is contrasted in two different cases of abuse), sexuality and infidelity. There are also plenty of light moments, mainly relating to Millie’s nursing – there’s a patient who insists on borrowing all of Munroe House’s equipment, just because it’s free (and rubber sheets are so useful for putting over holes in the roof). There are also some heartbreaking moments Millie sees at work, again reflecting the attitudes towards disability at the time and class divides.

Even though Millie experiences a lot of hardship in this novel, she meets it with a stiff upper lip and a determination not to let gossip get to her. There’s a particularly astonishing phone call she makes that seals her fate but she’s also rewarded by the return of a familiar character. Jean Fullerton has the ability to make positives out of the negatives, so Millie does get her happily ever after – I just hope it lasts longer than the one at the end of the first book!

My only quibble with this book was there were less nursing stories because of Millie’s pregnancy. But it’s a minor thing and opens up a whole new chapter of the expectations of women in the late 1940s/early 1950s. I hope there’s another adventure in Millie or three, this book is wonderfully nostalgic and perfect for those in Call the Midwife withdrawal.

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