The Pull of the Stars

by Emma Donoghue
The Pull of the Stars
by Emma Donoghue

Nurse Julia Power has been placed in charge of the maternity unit in an understaffed hospital in Dublin in post-war 1918, in the midst of a pandemic.

With no one to call on to assist her in the ward, Julia finally enlists a willing volunteer called Bridie Sweeney. This young woman is an innocent, raised in the convent and oblivious to the fundamentals in nursing care. Julia patiently equips Bridie in the tasks for which she's needed and gradually they form a close bond.

When further guidance is needed, Julia calls on the enigmatic doctor, Kathleen Lynn, who is fulfilling her role while eluding the police.

It's a fraught and intense atmosphere in which to work, with death a constant presence and every decision has profound consequences. But the novel celebrates the resourcefulness of the young women, and it's a strangely uplifting read.

It feels almost as if it's a medical memoir with very detailed accounts of each birth and the particular challenges of dealing with the demands of quarantining from a pandemic.

It wasn't what I was expecting at all and I thought it stunning. I was completely lost in the daily, moment by moment tasks of the characters. It was an unusual read but vivid, powerful, poignant, inspiring and gripping. I loved it!

Review date: July 2020
Publication date: 23rd July 2020