Lucilla Andrews’ 1977 memoir about her nursing career during the Second World War became famous — even notorious — in 2006 when Ian McEwan was alleged to have plagiarised significant passages for his novel Atonement (2002). In what became a heated debate, Andrews and the merits of her book were largely ignored. She had died only weeks before the story broke and so was unable to speak for herself. But while the extent of McEwan’s borrowings and the adequacy of his acknowledgements were mulled over, No Time for Romance was curiously absent from the arguments.
The book’s title cannot have helped. It sounded perilously close to some kind of chick-lit —a genre that serious writers and their readers dismiss. And indeed, that title is a conscious reference to one of the most scoffed-at subgenres of light reading for women: the hospital romance. Lucilla Andrews made a substantial career out of writing about romantic relationships between nurses and doctors, with titles like The Quiet Wards (1956) and A Hospital Summer (1958). But the war did not stop or prevent such relationships. No Time for Romance focuses on the particular demands that wartime conditions imposed on medical staff, but it also makes plain that snatched and often tragically brief relationships were part of the story.
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