Prentis was not, repeat not, a born nurse--and after her mother sent her off in 1934 at age 17 to try to learn, she scrambled ever after to keep up with those who took naturally to the job. What's hard to fathom, here is why anyone would take to being at the dismal bottom of the feudal system that was English nursing then--along with what satisfaction, if any, Prentis found in sticking it out. The best part of her story, indeed, is the beginning--at home on the small farm in Lincolnshire. But when Prentis' mother said nursing, off she went. Getting used to electricity and plumbing were two of the biggest hurdles; not that life got easier after that. Virtually all the three-years' training was on-the-job: sometimes more than twelve hours a day (any lectures or classroom instruction took place in ""off hours), starting at the bottom with dusting, heavy cleaning, and cooking--under the eyes of often brutal ward sisters--before getting anywhere near a patient. Major concerns of the new nurses, then, were to keep from getting T.B. or venereal disease from their charges. The sheltered 17-year-olds also had their eyes opened fast by patients on the gynecology wards; and Prentis and her mates spent lots of time thereafter sneaking out at night to meet doctors, friends' brothers, and ex-patients. Glimpses of the outside world are rare, however, and life within the hospital is largely joyless. There may be more and better to come--the book breaks off abruptly with Prentis' success at final exams--but this episode is not the lark that you might be misled to believe.