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Pan, London, 1978
(price: 50p; 160 pages)

The blurb on the back:

The story of six student nurses, living away from home, learning how to cope with their lives, loves, hopes and fears ...
Shirley - who learns to make friends, only to suffer a hurtful betrayal ...
Ruth - disillusioned by her home life, she allows herself to be distracted by a very attractive patient ...
Sita - faced with an arranged marriage to another Ugandan Asian, she has to make a vitally important decision ...
Jo - who doesn't mind night duty because there is less discipline and more fun ...
Patricia - when her room is broken into time after time, she realizes that someone hates her, someone who lives and works with her ...
Maureen - alone in alien culture, Maureen looks for comfort to a young Irish boy who is not what he seems ...

opening lines:
Angels - not the heavenly kind, but Nurses. These 'Angels' have their feet on the ground in St Angela's Hospital, Battersea: that is how the name 'Angels was derived.

In its time (1975-83) Angels was ground-breaking stuff: a much tougher version of hospital life than any previously attempted on British TV. It was to Emergency - Ward 10 and General Hospital what The Sweeney was to Dixon of Dock Green. Well, sort of.

None of that impact has survived, of course, and the series is now best remembered as the place where Julia Smith learnt the art of soaps before inflicting the much inferior Eastenders on Britain. (In turn, it was created by Paula Milne, who had previously been a scriptwriter for Crossroads.) What it should be remembered for is providing decent roles for a large number of good actresses at a time when such parts were hard to come by on TV: the six original nurses, on whom this book is based, were played, for example, by Clare Clifford, Lesley Dunlop, Karan David, Julie Dawn Cole, Fiona Fullerton and Erin Geraghty. It was also one of the few places on popular TV where it actually looked like Britain was a multi-racial society. You have to remember that even into the 1980s Coronation Street refused to have a black family in it because it would be controversial, which is the kind of mealy-mouthed apology for racism that passed for being acceptable at Granada TV.

This novelization is actually much stronger than you might imagine. And that's mostly because it's not a novel, but rather a series of six short stories with common characters, with each told in the first person by the nurse involved. They're not exactly subtle or original tales, but they're pleasant enough, and their heart's in the right place.


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