The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown and Company
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Julia Power is a skilled nurse working in a dangerously understaffed hospital in Ireland’s capital. With the population already decimated by war, the arrival of a deadly flu pandemic is the last thing the hospital is equipped to deal with, but on a tiny improvised ward for heavily pregnant women who have contracted the virus, Julia continues to serve with compassion. Throughout the three intense days depicted in the novel, she is aided by Kathleen Lynn, a political radical and pioneering female doctor, and Bridie Sweeney, a novice volunteer with a tragic past and a big heart. The contrasting trauma and beauty of what they experience together will teach them as much about themselves as each other; their unwavering dedication a testament to the endurance of hope even in the darkest of times.
Donoghue succeeds in capturing the abject horror of a city blighted by the cumulative effects of war and disease. Though she never shies away from detailing the utter devastation racking people’s bodies (indeed, there are several deeply upsetting and visceral sequences), there’s a tenderness to Julia’s perspective that grounds the narrative and stops it from tipping into gratuitous suffering.
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