Sometimes, I like to read self published books. I find that they don’t have the same slick editing that comes from a lot of books released by major publishers. Self-published books are sometimes a little bit rougher around the edges, yet more candid. That makes them more interesting. Dawn Brookes, author of Hurry Up Nurse: Memoirs of nurse training in the 1970s. I can tell by the way the book is written, but also by the publisher– Dawn Brookes Publishing. We know what that means, right?
Dawn Brookes is a very British lady who spent 39 years working as a nurse in England. She started in 1977, when she turned up at an interview for nurse’s training in Leicester. The funny thing is, I was actually living in England in 1977. My father was, at that time, the base engineer at Mildenhall Air Force Base, in Suffolk. Dawn Brookes was 18 years old, same age as my eldest sister, Betsy. That little factoid immediately helped me relate to her very colorful stories about what it was like to be trained as a nurse in England during the 70s. She also mentions visiting a couple of places I went to in 2016– Thetford and Watton– both in Norfolk and on the way to Norwich. I went there in 2016 after a Scottish cruise to see Mildenhall and the area where I spent three years of my early childhood. Anyway, enough about me and my British connections.
Dawn Brookes was a typical young lady in England, not knowing much about what she was going to do with her life. As it often happens with young people without a specific direction, Brookes found herself in a set of circumstances that led her to enter the nursing field. Her book, which has since been followed by two sequels I haven’t yet read– and hope are better than the Karate Kid sequels I sat through the other night— is about her training as a nurse in England over forty (!) year ago.
One thing that struck me about Hurry Up Nurse is that the years have really flown by. It doesn’t seem like 1977 was that long ago, but as Brookes writes about her days as a young nurse, I’m reminded of how things have changed. For instance, back in those days, nurses in England wore caps and white uniforms with belts. They even had capes and gloves! Nowadays, nurses dress for comfort and practicality. In the early days of Ms. Brookes’ career, patients were put in huge wards with about forty beds. Now, I’m guessing the wards still exist, but they’re smaller. Ditto for equipment that made nursing less taxing on the nurses’ backs and drugs that are better than what was available in the 70s. Brookes mentions drugs, equipment, and treatments that were used 40 years ago, but really doesn’t give them a thorough discussion. They more or less get mentioned in passing. The same goes for the title, “Hurry Up Nurse”, which gets mentioned several times, but not really explained in a memorable way.
Another thing that struck me about Hurry Up Nurse is how very different some British slang is compared to American slang. For example, a couple of days ago, I posted an excerpt from Ms. Brookes’ book about how she used to enjoy eating “faggots” when she was a girl. “Faggot”, of course, means something entirely different to Americans. In British English, it can refer to a pile of sticks or, as I’ve learned because of this book, a type of sausage made of offal. In America, “faggot” is a derogatory insult to male homosexuals. Dawn Brookes uses a lot of British slang and, sometimes, takes for granted that everyone reading her book is from the United Kingdom. It’s not unreasonable that she would assume that most readers are English, since this is a self-published book. And I’m not sad that I had to look up some of her less familiar terms, since I learned new things. I just want to warn American readers that they may have to do a little extra work to understand everything, even if the book is in English.
Dawn Brookes comes off as friendly and funny, and she did surprisingly well as a nurse and earned several qualifications, even though she seemed to end up in the field by happenstance. However, this book, though entertaining and kind of educational in its own way, isn’t very well organized. The book doesn’t really flow like a story and seems more like a group of anecdotes cobbled together. I mostly enjoyed the anecdotes, but I didn’t really get a sense of the people Ms. Brookes writes about. It’s not like Echo Heron’s marvelous book, Intensive Care, from 1987, which told the story of her training, as well as stories about people she’d worked with, and special patients she knew in a linear fashion. Brookes’ book is not linear and therefore comes off as somewhat less personal. On the other hand, at times I was reminded a little bit of Call the Midwife, and it’s a good thing I’ve seen that show, because Ms. Brookes also includes terminology and job titles that we Americans would mostly never get, like “ward sister”. What the hell is that? I could kind of figure it out because I’ve seen British TV, but other readers might need to do some Googling.
The book ends very abruptly, too. I was in the middle of a good story last night, turned the page, and all of a sudden, it was over. I was actually a little surprised by the sudden stop and went looking for more. Alas, that was it, and I was left a little wanting, as if Dawn Brookes had left me with a cliffhanger.
I liked the book enough that I decided to order the next two parts of her trilogy. I expect they will be more of the same… although if they’re as bad as The Karate Kid part III, I’ll be pissed. I got on a Karate Kid kick because I just watched the second season of Cobra Kai, which also wasn’t as good as the first, and needed to refresh my memory about the Karate Kid films. The second part wasn’t as good as the first, but the third part stunk to high heaven. I doubt the next two Hurry Up Nurse books will be that bad, though. I just hope that Brookes finds an editor… not a slick one, mind you, but one who can make her books flow logically and lyrically, so they’re easier and more fun to read and do less wandering. She has some good stuff here– and I did learn some things by reading– but I’m afraid I’m having trouble remembering anything specific to comment on, other than the fact that I learned a new meaning of the word “faggots”.
I’ll give it 3.5 stars out of 5, and we’ll see what I think of her other two books…
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