The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue


This was my bookclub’s choice last month. I was hesitant to tackle it because it is about the Spanish flu–a difficult read in the midst of our current pandemic. The author is Irish. She finished her novel just before our current pandemic began. It was published in July 2020. One of our bookclub members has a PhD in literature which is fun. He always has something interesting to add to the discussion. He told us that Irish novels are noted for taking place in short time frames. This complex tale spans only three days. It is set in Dublin in a makeshift maternity ward of in an overcrowded hospital. It revolves around a nurse and her patients. A mysterious flu has created chaos at the hospital; it seems to have a heavy rate of infection among pregnant women and their unborn babies. With war raging, this new disease has left the hospital overwhelmed and understaffed. Julia Power reports to work and finds herself alone and in charge of her patients in one small crowded hospital room. Help shows up–an eager but untrained young woman, Bridie Sweeney, who lives with the nuns who raised her. She was sent to the hospital by by one of the nuns who is also a nurse at the hospital. The story manages to bring in issues of healthcare, class, the horrors of Catholic homes for unwed mothers, Irish rebels, the horrors of WWI PTSD and more. All that said, the novel is incredibly tender and showcases the power of compassion and dedication in the darkest of times. For me, the shining stars, all women, in the book are nurse Powers, young Bridie, and a rebel doctor on the run, Dr. Lynn. It was well worth the effort. I’d read more by this author.

2 comments on “The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue”

  1. Barbara, I know Emma Donoghue from her book, Room. That one was quite the entertaining read, a white-knuckler near the end. I seem to find myself in pandemic land in my reading these days, too. I’ve just started listening to Maggie O’Farrell’s book, Hamnet, and I do believe Shakespeare’s 11-year-old son may have succumbed to the plague. Also listening to Sarah Dunant’s book about the Borgias, In the Name of the Family, and Lucretia Borgia, who married Alphonso d’Este, has just made it through the summer fever but delivered a stillborn daughter well in advance of her due date. Aye, me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love this review, Barbara, and have put this on my “for later shelf” at the library. I was intrigued already but when I read this – ” All that said, the novel is incredibly tender and showcases the power of compassion and dedication in the darkest of times.” – I knew it was something I needed to read. And I love the idea of the brief timespan. Did not know this about Irish novels.

    Liked by 1 person

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