The Pull of the Stars

The Pull of the Stars

A Novel

Book - 2020 | First edition.
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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 fallen sick are quarantined into a separate ward to keep the plague at bay. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders, a woman doctor who is a rumored Rebel, and a teenage girl, Bridie, procured by the nuns from their orphanage as an extra set of hands. At first, this Bridie seems unschooled in life, she makes up a bed with only the rubber mat and savors the weak tea and barely edible porridge from the hospital kitchen. But in the intensity of this ward, over three brutal days, Julia and the women come together in unexpected ways.
Publisher: New York :, Little, Brown and Company,, 2020.
©2020
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780316499019
Characteristics: 295 pages ; 25 cm
Summary: 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 fallen sick are quarantined into a separate ward to keep the plague at bay. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders, a woman doctor who is a rumored Rebel, and a teenage girl, Bridie, procured by the nuns from their orphanage as an extra set of hands. At first, this Bridie seems unschooled in life, she makes up a bed with only the rubber mat and savors the weak tea and barely edible porridge from the hospital kitchen. But in the intensity of this ward, over three brutal days, Julia and the women come together in unexpected ways.

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jeanie123
Sep 17, 2020

I really enjoyed meeting the women in this novel and felt great compassion for all of them in such a difficult setting. I was not prepared, however, for the gruesomeness and gore of the detailed procedures of the childbirths and deaths and autopsy. It just never stops coming and you have to grasp the small moments where the gore is not present. I felt it was a bit too much.

STPL_JessH Sep 11, 2020

So I started Pull of the Stars, and was interrupted. A few days later I picked it up again and just could not put it down! I was so surprised by how captivating I found a novel that takes place over such a short period of time. It is a tale to be read carefully, because if you blink you could miss a crucial moment. Emma Donoghue's details are gripping, as always. I found myself challenged by the characters and their actions and also surprised by the sweetness and tenderness that occurs in times of great trial. I think it is impossible not to take much of this book to heart since the circumstances are so similar to what we are currently experiencing. That said, the amount of privilege we have during this pandemic is beyond what these characters could imagine at the end of WWI.
I will definitely reread this book and I highly recommend it.

ArapahoeKati Sep 09, 2020

Eerily timely, this novel set over a few days in a maternity ward during the Spanish Flu of 1918 made me want to race through the story but also linger over Donoghue's elegant, sparse and impactful writing.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Sep 03, 2020

I loved this novel, it's setting, it's characters, everything. It has such a self-contained setting and occurs over such a short period of time it feels like it could be adapted as a play really effectively...and I found myself imagining what that would look like. While 1918 flu pandemic literature won't be what everyone wants to read in the middle of our own pandemic, this really is a lovely read.

l
laphampeak
Aug 31, 2020

Mixed feelings. Donoghue spins a riveting tale that takes place during the 1918 Flu pandemic in one room of a maternity ward. We meet characters that reveal many of the concerns of the pandemic that parallel to our present time - under-reporting, urge people to cover their coughs, spacing of beds in hospital ward, short supplies, hand washing, and a lot of misinformation. What I question is the backdrop that consisted of lengthy pages of detail of childbirth at that time. Was the pandemic the story-line? Maternity conditions? Then the author added physical abuse, adoption, cleft lip for judgement issues, and a brief girl-on-girl kissing episode as well as some #me too flavor as well. Writing magnificent. Story-line a little too much.

c
cat5412
Aug 30, 2020

I found the book to be riveting. It took me no time to finish. It is not for the squeamish but seemed real to life for its time period. I shed a few tears during the book. It was a hard time in history and to read what these women were experiencing was impressive. It may have been fiction but there was reality in those stories!

s
sjanke2
Aug 28, 2020

My year of enjoying Irish literature graciously continues with this summer's pandemic novel, The Pull of the Stars.

The year is 1918 and the world is fighting two wars: the Spanish Flu epidemic and WWI. In Dublin, Irish political tensions add to the pressure cooker of fear, violence, and illness. Our protagonist, Julia Power, is maternity ward nurse in Ireland's capital, caring for expectant women fighting off the flu. Along comes a bright young volunteer, Bridie, and Irish rebel Dr. Lynn. The three women save and lose lives over the course of three days.

The book weaves together fact and fiction to transport us to last century's plague, which is not so different from the pandemic we are living in now. Donoghue began writing this book in 2018, before any signs of COVID-19 appeared on the horizon, and rushed publication in March 2020 when our very own pandemic arrived one century after the book's. Donoghue somehow had insight into the minutia of plague life before living through one herself, from wearing masks to propaganda signage at the bus station to the low thrum of anxiety and distrust.

While Nurse Power and Bridie are fictional characters based on historical testimonies, Dr. Kathleen Lynn is a true historical figure (1874-1955). A feminist, lesbian, and activist, she was involved with the Irish rebel group Sinn Fein and was passionate about public and women's health. Donoghue referenced Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor to inform her character.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who needs a reminder that while right now the world seems to be caving in on itself, many points in history felt hopeless and scary, too. I'm surprised I found hope in reading a novel about a pandemic. Several scenes detailed intense and painful childbirths, so this book is not for the squeamish. Also, I'm grateful that I had previous knowledge of the Irish political/rebel situation thanks to the fabulous book, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. Without that knowledge, Dr. Lynn's character would have completely blown over my head. In fact, I would have liked to see more of her character, as she was a complex and loyal woman.

r
RCHscc
Aug 26, 2020

Complete waste of my time, I was hoping for more of a story. The first part read like many shifts I worked as a nurse even though I didn't work on Maternity, but worked instead in Critical Care. The whole story took place over 3 days which is fine but I didn't really think there was anything to learn in what she had written and I certainly didn't like the ending.

2
22222013434661
Aug 24, 2020

What a beautiful, emotionally heartfelt book. There are lots of details of the times and women’s lives but it is the relationships between the three main characters and the women they care for that is the life of the book. Emma Donoghue just keeps getting better and better.

p
PineSisken
Aug 22, 2020

One of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

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