In brief: The second book about Connie, district nurse and midwife in East End London in the late 1940s.
The good: Absolutely delightful – interesting insight into attitudes and living during that time.
The not-so-good: I really didn’t have enough time to sit down and enjoy this book some nights!
Why I chose it: Enjoyed Jean Fullerton’s other post WWII nursing novels.
Publisher: Orion (Hachette)
Setting: East End London
My rating: 9.5 out of 10
I really, really like historical nurse stories for some reason. Perhaps it’s the promise of a simpler life combined with a bit of medicine, perhaps it’s because I loved the Sue Barton stories growing up (and I still can’t find the last three books in the series!). Jean Fullerton offers a delightful series of two nurse friends, Millie and Connie. This is the second story about Connie, who hasn’t had an easy life since her fiancé came home married to someone else. At the end of the previous book, Fetch Nurse Connie, she had found happiness with Malcolm (and also the ultimate in mother-in-law from hell).
Reading this story is relaxing as you let the story take you over and become fully engrossed in Connie’s world. Connie is now much happier working for the Spitalfields and Shoreditch Nursing Association but we meet her on a very big day in history, 5th July 1948. This was the first day of England’s NHS, where people had their nursing and medical care covered by the government. It takes Connie’s patients a little to get used to, but soon everyone wants to ‘try’ the new NHS and life is busy. But Connie’s personal life isn’t quite as rosy. Malcolm is quite a bore and sitting in on a Friday night with his demanding mother? Forget it. Connie turns to work and her friends for fun and interest. With new doctor Hari, she’s found a great professional friend, but could there be something more?
I loved the story with its descriptions of life in the East End, the slowly disappearing slums and the rise of new housing out further. Reading the story from Hari’s perspective was also interesting and gave an insight into attitudes towards Asian/Indian people of the time (rather varied). I always enjoy the nursing aspects, as it reflects on just how far medicine has come in nearly 70 years! There’s also other taboos of the time tackled such as contraception and management of the disabled.
The supporting characters were also wonderfully done – the familiarity of Millie and the introduction of old, set in his ways Dr Marshall who is a horrible piece of work. Miss O’Dwyer, Connie’s superintendent is a gorgeous, loving character who vents her frustrations in such a funny way! Naturally my heart goes to Hari, POW and forward thinking GP who is as sweet and handsome as he is clever.
My only qualm was that I found the writing incredibly detailed at the start, possibly a hangover from the last book I read. However, once I was engaged in Connie’s world I hung on every word and wanted every detail! I feel that this could be the last book starring Connie, but I’d love to read more of Jean’s books, particularly if they have a nursing aspect. A wonderful, comforting read!