‘New York Times’ Reviews Emma Donoghue’s Latest

Don’t Believe History Repeats Itself? Read This Book

By Karen Thompson Walker

By Emma Donoghue

In Emma Donoghue’s arresting new page-turner of a novel, “The Pull of the Stars,” an urban hospital is overwhelmed by victims of a cruel new disease. The sounds of wracking coughs cut through the air as medical supplies run short, and face masks become commonplace in the streets. Meanwhile, the government touts false cures and contends that the epidemic is under control.

The parallels to 2020 are uncanny, but this is history, not prescience. The year is 1918, and the illness, of course, is influenza. As Donoghue writes in an author’s note, “‘The Pull of the Stars’ is fiction pinned together with facts.”

When the novel opens, the pandemic has left one Dublin hospital with “more than twice as many patients as usual and a quarter the staff.” Julia Power, a 29-year-old midwife, suddenly finds herself the only nurse on duty overnight in the “fever/maternity” ward, the makeshift section of the hospital set aside for influenza patients who also happen to be pregnant. Read the full review at The New York Times.

Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars is one of our current Books in the Bag bookclub favorites. To read more about it — as well as our other selections — visit our Books in the Bag page.

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