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The Pull of The Stars by Emma Donoghue

A lone nurse in a maternity ward during the flu pandemic of 1918

I don’t often read general fiction. But when I do, it is often Emma Donoghue. Her books Room and Akin where great stories and I was certain so would The Pull of the Stars be. I was not disappointed. I was enthralled by it from beginning to end and I hope you all love it as much as I did! 

The book takes place during the height of the great flu pandemic and is almost entirely set in a little room, turned maternity ward, at an Irish hospital. Nurse Julia Power, due to many members of staff falling ill themselves ends up solely responsible for the pregnant mothers in that room. All assistance she gets is from a young girl who never helped in a hospital before and Dr. Kathleen Lynn, a rumored rebel on the run from the police. She immediately proves to be a lot more responsible and knowledgeable than the young male doctor in the hospital. 
Three days… that is the entirety of the book. And yet, so much happens. It was an emotional journey. Almost entirely on her own, Nurse Julia has to combat influenza and try to deliver healthy babies without losing their mothers. Sadly I cannot tell you that her days were wholly successful. Some battles she won, some she lost. You will find yourself surprisingly captivated by all the many different issues and difficulties Nurse Julia faces trying to save the lives under her care. 
Even though the struggles at that maternity ward would have been enough to keep you on your toes while reading, Emma Donoghue also brings to light other social issues- the aversion to contraception, social pressure to give away your baby if you are unmarried, sexual and physical abuse, a sadly high maternity mortality rate, the pandemic itself, and the horrors of the war. Nurse Julia’s own brother comes back from it unable to speak.
Although The Pull of the Stars is a fiction novel as a whole, it is mixed in with real events and testimonies. The female doctor, Kathleen Lynn, was very much a real person. Dr. Lynn was a pioneer of her time. She helped combat the influenza pandemic of 1918 and later founded her own children’s hospital. She even came to win a seat in the new Irish Parliament in 1923. 

Find the book at : Inklings Bookshop


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