The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. A small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for love, by the bestselling author of The Wonder and ROOM.
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, 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.
Still hours of dark to go when I left the house that morning.
The Pull of the Stars reminded me why I often say that Emma Donoghue is one of my favourite authors. There is something about her writing style that I connect with. I went into The Pull of the Stars knowing very little about it, other than the fact that it was written by Donoghue- that was all I needed to know.
It is safe to say that The Pull of the Stars is my favourite books of hers and will most definitely end up on my “Best Books of the Year” list. The story takes place in a maternity ward in Ireland in 1918. The hospital is overwhelmed by the influenza pandemic, and pregnant women are great affected. Given that we are currently going through a pandemic 100 years later, it was interesting to read the parallels in the story as well as the differences.
The story plays out over the course of three days, and I found myself deeply invested in each of the characters. Our narrator, Julia, has an interesting perspective and it was fascinating to see her relationship with the doctors, volunteers, and patients. The connection that she forms with a naive yet well-meaning volunteer named Birdie was quite special and a highlight of the book for me. There is a great deal of heartbreak that takes place during these three days, but there is a lot of love as well.
If you are like me and you love the TV series Call of Midwife, I can almost guarantee that you will also love The Pull of the Stars. The book goes into detail about child birth, and it is a testament to the strength of women. I learned a lot, which I was not expecting, and it was evident that Donoghue did a great deal of research before writing this novel.
The Pull of the Stars is very much a character-driven novel that is rich in detail and is beautifully written. While it hit close to home in a way that made it difficult to read at times, I also came out of it feeling more hopeful that I had been before.