In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in "Donoghue's best novel since Room" (Kirkus Reviews).
In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This heart-wrenching historical novel proves that, in many ways, a century can feel like no time at all. Set in Dublin during the 1918 Spanish-flu pandemic, The Pull of the Stars draws us into the first-person story of Julia Power, a nurse working in a quarantined maternity ward in an understaffed hospital. Amid the chaos, Julia teams up with a doctor who’s also a wanted Sinn Féin member—the character’s based on a real-life historical figure, Dr. Kathleen Lynn—and a scrappy volunteer named Bridie. Together, the three women battle the ravages of the outbreak to provide care to various frightened expectant moms. Room author Emma Donoghue’s attention to detail gives the moving story a visceral sense of its place and time (it practically made us feel like we’d taken a crash course in early 20th-century OB-GYN practices). Like the present-day pandemic that Donoghue’s story can’t help but evoke, The Pull of the Stars reveals heroism and hope in uncertainty, and comfortingly reminds us that people have survived such times before.
Donoghue's searing tale (after Akin) takes readers to a Dublin beleaguered by wartime shortages and ravaged by a lethal new strain of influenza. On Halloween in 1918, nurse Julia Powers, single and ambivalent about marriage, is about to turn 30. When Julia's supervisor gets the flu, Julia is left alone serving a ward of high-risk pregnant influenza patients. Kathleen Lynn (the story's only historical figure), an activist involved with the radical Sinn F in party, supplements Julia's own knowledge of obstetrics, and volunteer Bridey Sweeney arrives to help with the backbreaking work. Julia feels a powerful draw to the smart and willing Bridey, whose optimism belies her impoverished upbringing in a brutal charity orphanage. As they cope with the ward's unceasing cycle of birth and death, their closeness challenges Julia's sense of herself and her life. While the novel's characters and plot feel thinner than the best of the author's remarkable oeuvre, her blunt prose and detailed, painstakingly researched medical descriptions do full justice to the reality of the pandemic and the poverty that helps fuel it. Donoghue's evocation of the 1918 flu, and the valor it demands of health-care workers, will stay with readers.
Quick & entertaining read
This story moves quickly, the characters are well written, and interesting & likable. I wish the ending was longer. It seems like it ended in a hurry but I guess they were in a rush to publish it during the pandemic. I would have liked an extra chapter or two to finish it up a bit, but all in all a good read.
Okay. It’s okay
Started this book at the start of this current pandemic. Gave it several months rest before I started reading it again. I admire Emma Donahue writing this detailed story of Irish hospital birthing ward in the midst of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Truly a very detailed day to day on how midwives, nurses, Sisters, physicians and others coped with difficult patients. I can’t imagine what they went through. They did everything with nothing and survived. Story reminds me that our current pandemic has everything to end it yet so many people are selfish and don’t care about others.
Well done Emma for depicting all that is good in humanity when they had nearly nothing to offer to patients. Great book.
We are repeating the 100 year old pandemic whereby science and compassion are with the caregivers yet the patients think their personal liberty is meant to harm so many fellow human beings by not even wearing a simple face covering! By the way, we have a vaccine for prevention of death now!
I read this book, first for the love of the author, but also because I have been in the company of women such as Julia, Nurse Power personally and professionally. Over the past year I have witnessed my collective crew question their choices, their methods but still they have come together just as Nurse Power did to rectify a wrong, find love in a sea blood, and they too have watched as the Pandemic of 2020-21 has stolen their patients. This book spoke to me as a family birth nurse of 27 years, a mother for 32 years and a woman of 56. What a time to have penned a novel, for the past has revisited our healthcare and stolen our loved ones. Thank you Emma, heartbreaking, yet beautiful in each written word.