The Pull of the Stars

The Pull of the Stars

by Emma Donoghue



The backdrop of this novel could not be more relevant in a CV19 world as it opens in a 1918 maternity ward of a hospital in a pandemic ridden Dublin.

The opening chapter paints a grim, almost grotesque image of a rotting city in the midst of the Spanish Flu – fittingly named “The Grip”. The same Dublin is still recovering from the 1916 battles as well as suffering the ongoing effects of WW1 and the conflicting views of those families and friends who have opposing views.

The fast-paced story follows Nurse Julia Power and regales tragedy, romance and a high death count.

The description of the trauma of labour are graphic and makes this a difficult read at times.

Misery is overwhelming as the author describes the smell of “dung and blood” and carbolic sterilisation in the streets – and the same sense of peril is present on the maternity ward.

Donohue has a great ability to conjure up images – and this book is certainly topical. Readers will enjoy the pandemic like comparisons between then and now – the cancelled concerts and GAA matches, the horse and carts lining up at the hospital to take away the dead, the libraries get a mention too when they recalled all their books for quarantine!

While I enjoyed parts of the book – Overall I found it a grim and difficult read – It left the reader glad to live in this century and offers comfort that we are so much more likely to survive this pandemic as a result.

Most relevant piece of memorabilia from the book was a sign from that period that reads …..“Cover up each Cough and Sneeze – Fools and Traitors Spread Disease” 



Reviewed by Longford Branch Library January 2021