March 2, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Helen Wells, Cherry Ames, Companion Nurse
I was never into the Cherry Ames nursing series the same way I was into similar series. Nancy Drew was THE BEST, of course – though the ones I saved from my collection I now find largely unreadable, alas – but I definitely had a few Peggy Lane theater books and some of the Vicki Barr flight stewardess ones. The latter totally screwed me up when I started traveling on a regular basis, as in the books they serve food from the back of the plane forwards, but in real life – or at least, by the late twentieth century – this was not true.
(The ‘had’ – as in, I had these books – is, sadly, literal. Here’s a public service announcement: if you leave your book collection in your ex-boyfriend’s place, remove it before his new girlfriend moves in.)
There was never an idealised pre-lapsarian era of American history when small towns were perfect and everyone knew their place, but boy, you wouldn’t know that from series like these. This book definitely contains a large dose of ‘middle-class white people can decree what happens to those less fortunate’ belief. When a young girl is found to have been involved in Nefarious Goings-On via her mother, someone pontificates: ‘We never suspected a child, did we? I expect that that unfortunate child will be taken away from her mother, and placed in the custody of foster parents who are fit to raise her.’ Problem solved! And an interesting glimpse of the belief that environment affects character, rather than writing the girl off because her genes are clearly defective.
This particular book is probably a little atypical of the Cherry Ames genre, as the nursing is slight; Cherry ends up becoming a companion nurse to an authoress who is about to travel to Great Britain for research purposes and who, of course, becomes caught up in the aforementioned Nefarious Goings-On. So the most she ever really does is change a dressing. That was fine by me; I’m far more into foreign travel than nursing, which is probably why these were never my standard reading fare.
I loved this book for the glimpses of airline travel in a time when you could just stroll onto the plane, and the way in which a foreign country is depicted by someone who did the reseach in the library. It’s mostly accurate – which probably helped people like me who were reading these books back in 1964, before budget travel really took off – but there are occasional howlers. When Cherry goes to talk to the police in Edinburgh, ‘She did not see Peter as she entered police headquarters, only a man in kilts.’ How many kilts was he wearing, then?