Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hospital fiction

The Guardian prints Julia Langdon's very nice obituary for nurse/romance-writer Lucilla Andrews (whose autobiography was an important source for Ian McEwan's Atonement):

She worked as a military nurse from 1937 to 1939, joined the British Red Cross on the outbreak of the second world war and was trained as a Nightingale nurse at St Thomas's hospital. She wrote vividly about nursing the injured from the Battle of Britain, delivering babies while bombs fell and was able to evoke such enthusiasm for nursing in her books that in later years she often received letters from readers who professed to have taken up the profession because of the influence of her writing. When her nurses home was hit by a V2 bomb in 1945, she grabbed two things from her room: her eyelash curlers and her file of notes for the books she wanted to write.

One of her patients was Chaim Weizmann, the founder and future first president of Israel, who was recovering from ophthalmic surgery in 1946. She records how she asked him: "How it must feel to be you, now you're founding a new state, a new world for your people. How does it feel?" She went on: "Dr Weizmann, his eyes still shaded, reflectively swallowed the final teaspoonful of his boiled egg and continued to reflect for some seconds. 'Troublesome, Nurse Andrews, troublesome'."