Summary and book reviews of The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

The Pull of the Stars

by Emma Donoghue

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue X
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2020, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 6, 2021, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in "Donoghue's best novel since Room" (Kirkus Reviews).

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.



I
Red

STILL HOURS OF DARK to go when I left the house that morning. I cycled through reeking Dublin streets that were slick with rain. My short green cape kept off the worst, but my coat sleeves were soon wet through. A waft of dung and blood as I passed a lane where livestock were waiting. A boy in a man's coat shouted something rude at me. I pedalled faster, past a motor car creeping along to eke out its petrol.

I left my cycle in the usual alley and clipped the combination lock onto the back wheel. (German manufacture, of course. How would I replace it when its mechanism rusted up?) I let down the side tapes of my skirt and took my rain-soaked bag out of the basket. I'd have preferred to cycle all the way to the hospital, and it would have brought me there in half the time the tram took, but Matron wouldn't hear of her nurses turning up in a sweat.

Emerging onto the street, I nearly walked into a disinfection cart. Its sweet, tarry tang marked the air. I ducked away from the ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The decision to focus on a restricted timeframe of just three days allows Donoghue to show how relentless a nurse's work really was during this time. Distressing scenes are presented in excruciating detail, drawn out to an almost painful extent, but this makes the vital tension-breaking moments of friendship, love and light all the more poignant and impactful. Beyond the gripping narrative and its endearing characters, the book serves as a love letter to all the women who sacrifice themselves mind, body and soul in the name of caring for others — a theme that resonates as powerfully today as it ever did...continued

Full Review Members Only (630 words).

(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

New York Times
[A]rresting...The Pull of the Stars takes place almost entirely in a single room and unfolds at the pace of a thriller....The scenes in the “fever/maternity” ward are so enthralling that the novel loses a bit of its fire — and realism — whenever it leaves that room, but these departures are thankfully rare. Donoghue seems most interested in the dramas of this one space — with which she manages to make clear the broader constrictions and injustices of an entire Irish society.

Washington Post
Donoghue has fashioned a tale of heroism that reads like a thriller, complete with gripping action sequences, mortal menaces and triumphs all the more exhilarating for being rare and hard-fought...[she] celebrates the sisterhood of women bringing life into the world and those who help them along this perilous journey...Donoghue infuses catastrophic circumstances with an infectious — but by no means blind — faith in human compassion, endurance and resilience.

NPR
In doing a deep dive into the miseries and terrors of the past, Donoghue presciently anticipated the miseries and terrors of our present...A deft, lyrical and sometimes even cheeky writer...she’s given us our first pandemic caregiver novel — an engrossing and inadvertently topical story about health care workers inside small rooms fighting to preserve life.

Publishers Weekly
While the novel's characters and plot feel thinner than the best of the author's remarkable oeuvre, her blunt prose and detailed, painstakingly researched medical descriptions do full justice to the reality of the pandemic and the poverty that helps fuel it. Donoghue's evocation of the 1918 flu, and the valor it demands of health-care workers, will stay with readers.

Library Journal
This female-centric story is a cross between Susan Meissner's As Bright as Heaven and Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, with a caveat: those wary of detailed medical scenes should avoid.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[A] story rich in swift, assured sketches of achingly human characters coping as best they can in extreme circumstances. Darkly compelling, illuminated by the light of compassion and tenderness: Donoghue's best novel since Room (2010).

Booklist (starred review)
Donoghue offers vivid characters and a gripping portrait of a world beset by a pandemic and political uncertainty. A fascinating read in these difficult times.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The 1918 Flu Pandemic

Black and white photo of Camp Funston during Spanish flu featuring room full of patients on cotsOften referred to as the Spanish Flu, the 1918 flu pandemic is one of the deadliest viral outbreaks the world has ever seen. Hitting its peak at the tail-end of World War I, record-keeping was poor by modern standards, but it is estimated that some 500 million people (about a quarter of the world's population at the time) became infected across its three waves, with around 50 million of them succumbing to the illness.

Though its common moniker suggests the outbreak originated in Spain, this is in fact untrue. With much of Europe embroiled in the ongoing conflict of WWI, many countries were subject to strict news censoring and media blackouts by the time the virus emerged. Not wishing to further damage morale among citizens already living...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Emma Donoghue

If you liked The Pull of the Stars, try these:

  • The Winter Soldier jacket

    The Winter Soldier

    by Daniel Mason

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    By the international bestselling author of The Piano Tuner, a sweeping and unforgettable love story of a young doctor and nurse at a remote field hospital in the First World War.

  • The Wonder jacket

    The Wonder

    by Emma Donoghue

    Published 2017

    About this book

    More books by this author

    In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle - a girl said to have survived without food for months - soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Sea Gate
    The Sea Gate
    by Jane Johnson
    In Jane Johnson's novel, The Sea Gate, set in England, readers are introduced to Becky, a young ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from Suffragette City
    Stories from Suffragette City
    by M.J. Rose, Fiona Davis
    Our First Impressions readers were fascinated by the historical fiction from a range of authors ...
  • Book Jacket: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    by Marie Benedict
    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, notable author of previous historical fiction such ...
  • Book Jacket: To Be a Man
    To Be a Man
    by Nicole Krauss
    While, as its title hints, To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss is concerned with masculinity, it renders a ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    At the Edge of the Haight
    by Katherine Seligman

    Winner of the 2019 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Fortunate Ones
    by Ed Tarkington

    An engrossing story of class, love, and loyalty for fans of Kevin Wilson's Nothing to See Here.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Moment of Lift
by Melinda Gates
How can we summon a moment of lift for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.
Who Said...

Information is the currency of democracy

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T M T C, T M T Stay T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.