‘…Influenza delle stelle – the influence of the stars. Medieval Italians thought the illness proved that the heavens were governing their fates.’
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 come down with the terrible new flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders – Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds.
Just in time for our current pandemic state, along comes the author with her emotional tome set during 1918 Dublin. As if the world wasn’t still fighting a war, the viral fed Influenza of 1918 was killing more than those involved in the conflict.
Nurse Julia Powers is an experienced, savvy nurse, where the maternity ward has been sectioned off and quarantined those with the flu symptoms. Desperate for help, Nurse Julia is joined by Bridie Sweeney, a local resident of the religious institution where she grew up, but having no education or experience in health services. She is also visited from the regular maternity ward by Dr. Kathleen Lynn, a Sinn Fein rebel, successfully avoiding so far being caught.
A strong parallel to the current epidemic with short supplies, escalating numbers, staffing, efforts to train and manage the population with proper sanitary procedures, but that is largely where the similarities end as there were no vaccines until the 30s when many of the home grown remedies were discarded.
No, this is a whole nother story, deeply rooted in the capacity of the nurse to love and care for her patients while her hands in a male dominated medical world are largely tied to doctors who quickly segregate care by the patient’s economic level. Waiting for even the capacity to apply fever or pain mediums, helpless to watch as her patients steadily lose ground in the interim. Amazing her quick thinking so often exhibited with her knowledge of hands on, education, and sharing.
The entire timeline covers no more than several days but packs so many disturbing details in the cringe-worthy descriptions, it has your teeth shuddering. As a woman having borne children, not difficult to remember the difference between front and back labor pain, but the practice of actually splitting the pubic bone (symphysiotomy or pubiotomy) had me terrified at the mental image.
As the stories of each in her ward are examined, it’s easy to become engaged in their welfare and root for their successful birthing experience and triumph over the flu symptoms. Nurse Julia has seen it all and her one light in the catastrophic scenario is her friendship with Bridie and the growing respect for Dr. Lynn (who in real life performed an amazing job both medically and socially in her fight for the treatment of women).
It’s a heartbreaking story, enveloping the reader in the dark and dreary times; the daily struggles of living another day in Ireland during the worst of poverty, famine, ignorance, religious, social, and sexual abuses. I was blind-sided by the short and unexpected romantic tryst near the conclusion, but the narrative is as educational as sensitive and disturbing.
Genre: Medical Fiction, LGBT Historical Fiction, World War I Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hackette Audio
Listening Length: 9 hrs 6 mins
Narrator: Emma Lowe
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Pull of the Stars [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
The Author: Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is a writer of contemporary and historical fiction whose novels include the international bestseller “Room” (her screen adaptation was nominated for four Oscars), “Frog Music”, “Slammerkin,” “The Sealed Letter,” “Landing,” “Life Mask,” “Hood,” and “Stirfry.” Her story collections are “Astray”, “The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits,” “Kissing the Witch,” and “Touchy Subjects.” She also writes literary history, and plays for stage and radio. She lives in London, Ontario, with her partner and their two children.
The Narrator: Emma Lowe is a Watty Award winning author, who writes urban fantasy novels for both adults and young adults. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Emma attends university where she studies a Bachelor of Art in Creative Writing.
With a strong passion for the written word, Emma has also been published in Girlfriend magazine for her novel, Newborn (Helena Series) and other upcoming projects.
Aside from writing, Emma enjoys reading fantasy and horror novels, watching “one episode” from her favourite TV series, and admits to having a “small” obsession with cats. Though she has an extremely busy schedule, Emma plans to expand on the evergrowing world that is Helena Series, including its spin off origin series. On top of that, Emma is working on C.A.T Academy along with several other secret projects.
Emma’s first published book, Newborn, follows the tale of a young woman named Helena who witnesses a supernatural murder and is sucked into an underground world full of mythical creatures, a complex love hectogon, and a mystical prophecy that entails a brewing undead war on the horizon.
©2021 V Williams