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Fiction Medical

The Pull of the Stars

A Novel

by (author) Emma Donoghue

Initial publish date
Jul 2021
Medical, Historical, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2020
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2021
    List Price

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Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the great flu. A small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for love, by the bestselling author of The Wonder and Room.

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, 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, 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, caregivers 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.

About the author

EMMA DONOGHUE was born in Dublin and lived in England for many years before moving to Canada. She writes in many genres, including theatre, radio drama and literary history, but is best known for her fiction, both historical (SlammerkinThe Sealed LetterAstrayFrog Music) and contemporary (Stir-FryHoodLandingTouchy Subjects). Her seventh novel, Room, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Canada and the Caribbean region) and was shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prizes. It sold more than two million copies. Donoghue scripted the film adaptation, a Canadian-Irish film by Lenny Abrahamson starring Brie Larson, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And her most recent novel, The Wonder, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2016.

Emma Donoghue's profile page


  • Unknown, NOW Toronto 10 Best Books of 2020
  • Unknown, CBC Books: Best Canadian Fiction of 2020
  • Unknown, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada
  • Unknown, Globe & Mail 100: Our Favourite Books of 2020
  • Unknown, Trillium Book Award
  • Unknown, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2020

Editorial Reviews

"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." — Booklist (starred review)

“Darkly compelling, illuminated by the light of compassion and tenderness: Donoghue’s best novel since Room.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Searing… Donoghue’s evocation of the 1918 flu, and the valor it demands of health-care workers, will stay with readers.” — Publishers Weekly

“Eerily relevant” — Elle (Canada)

“Donoghue, a first-rate historical novelist, skillfully weaves the era’s primitive medical understanding and social prejudices into her moving story of three caregivers with little but loving care to give.” — Maclean's

“Impeccably researched and immensely readable, as always with Donoghue.Toronto Star

“Pandemic fiction and historical fiction find a home together in this eerily well-timed novel from the author of Room and The Wonder.” — The Globe and Mail

“A timely commentary not only on life and death, but also on the workings of fate. . . . As always, Donoghue catches the reader’s attention. Her look at both unforeseen plague and the dangerous rituals of childbirth is riveting and moving. In her disturbing but thought-provoking tale, hope and empathy appear in unexpected ways as patients and nurses alter each other’s lives.” — London Free Press

"The Pull of the Stars draws you into a world that is at once expansive and ever so small. Donoghue’s deft ability to climb up and down the ladder of abstraction allows her to reach great heights and heartbreaking lows. It offers the reader a universe to explore, shooting stars and all." — Zoomer Magazine

“A visceral, harrowing, and revelatory vision of life, death, and love in a time of pandemic. This novel is stunning." — Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Glass Hotel and Station Eleven

“I did not want to stop reading for even a moment.” —

User Reviews

Shines with loss, love and life

Following the exhausting life of Nurse Julia Power in a maternity/fever ward (pregnant mothers sick with the Flu) over three long days - short in time, long in feeling. Such strong character development to know and care about these characters as they interact and struggle with the post World War I pandemic, lack of supplies and never enough hands. Volunteer helper Bridie Sweeney is such a fantastic character and enhances Julia's character as well.
Loved it.

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