Maya just finished listening to this one!
Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, "The Pull of the Stars", spans three days in a maternity/fever ward during the 1918 Influenza pandemic, and proves both eerie and urgent in its relevance today.
It is October in Dublin, and the city remains in the throws of the world’s deadliest outbreak, the Spanish Influenza. Nurse Julia Power, unmarried and on the eve of her 30th birthday, has been assigned to a makeshift ward for expecting mothers infected with the flu. Julia’s new nursing assistant Bridie Sweeney is a bright and cheerful young woman, despite her childhood of abuse under the roof of a Catholic orphanage. The relationship that blossoms between the two provides a necessary sweetness amid the bleak backdrop.
The Pull of the Stars amid our current pandemic is not unlike gazing into a trick mirror. It may be the Victorian Era in Donoghue’s novel, but the familiar sights serve to erode the proceeding century and with it the comfort of fiction itself. While chilling in its prescience, the effect is not entirely unwelcome. There is consolation in the knowledge that despite our modern, shiny world, we humans remain recognizable to one another.
The fear and grief that riddled 1918 Dublin prove not so different from our own uncertain times. We mourn, we bury our dead, and as history has shown, we persist. In its ultimate message of hope, "The Pull of the Stars" emerges as a must- read for our times.