The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

“…that’s what influenza means, she said. Influenza delle stelle- the influence of the stars. Medieval Italians thought the illness proved that the havens were governing their fates, that people were quite literally star-crossed.” (pg 147).

The Pull of the Stars is a novel that takes place over 3 days in a “Maternity/Fever” ward at St. Lukes hospital in Dublin, Ireland. It’s 1918, and the Spanish flu has grabbed hold of the country, leaving death and sorrow.
Our main character is Julia Power, the lone nurse on the ward tending to incredibly sick women who are about to give birth. Thankfully Julia is joined by Birdie Sweeney, a volunteer who, although incredibly naive about how the human body functions, is brave and tireless and a quick study who proves her usefulness.
The story centres around three patients who will eventually give birth while suffering from the ravages of influenza. True to life, each delivery is be different, resulting in different outcomes for both mother and child.
As if by some miracle, Julia and Birdie are eventually guided by Dr Kathleen Lynn, a member of the Irish Citizen Army wanted by the police.
Dr Lynn is my favourite character. We only get glimmers of her back story, but I was mesmerized by her words and actions. She was brave, confident and ultimately, a woman who knows who she was and what she stood for and, interestedly enough based on a REAL Dr. Lynn who practiced medicine in Ireland.
Be warned that the author does not hold back when describing complicated childbirth and other traumatic medical procedures. It is a gory story.

The Pull of the Stars is a bloody read with strong female characters…my favourite kind of book.

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