Title: The Pull of the Stars

By: Emma Donoghue   

ISBN: 9780316499019

Website: emmadonoghue(.)com

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra                   


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. (Goodreads)


The Pull of the Stars is another engaging book by Emma Donoghue. While I am fairly new to the historical fiction genre I am really beginning to enjoy it. This might have been a strange book to read at this time (currently amidst the COVID-19 pandemic) but given The Pull of the Stars point of view – I found it timely as well as gripping and entertaining. Highlighting the true heroic nature of the work that nurses do!  Not surprising – this book has been nominated for numerous awards ☺. I have read other titles by Ms. Donoghue (Room and Frog Music) and I must say – this is the story and its storytelling I have liked the best.

The story revolves around Nurse Julie Power and her role in the sequestered portion of the maternity ward for those patients with the plague over a three-day period. The room has three beds available for maternity patients. As the three days’ progress, the beds are filled with numerous pregnant women. Births happen… deaths happen. The story is well paced while in the hospital and we are also allowed to glimpse into Nurse Power’s home life as well (getting to know a bit about her brother and his plight following his time in the war). I can’t imagine how difficult life was in the early 1900’s! Each maternity patient’s story is poignant and kept me engaged throughout.

We get a glimpse of what life was like in the middle of a pandemic and the end of a war in the early 1900’s. From the current pandemic – I have gleaned that some things have just not changed. Though I am quite glad I had my children outside of a pandemic. 

The story provided just the right amount of depth for the characters. I enjoyed getting to know Bridie Sweeney, the young volunteer helper. What a hard life it must have been for those born and sent to an orphanage. Bridie is a quick learner and provides Julie with the help that she desperately needs to assist in the birth of the babies. We also get to know Dr. Kathleen Lynn – a doctor who is a bit of a rebel rouser – she is wanted by the police for her activities during various protests. Another character, who I found intriguing, was Groyne – whom Julie disliked quite a bit.

This story is heartbreaking. As with our current situation, the book points out the incredible strain on the workers tasked with caring for the sick. It is a shame we have to live through this again and some of the current strain on the healthcare system could have been lessened or avoided. Here is hoping we learn for the future.If you are a fan of historical fiction, then I suggest picking up The Pull of the Stars and get your reading on – you will not be disappointed. A fine new novel by Emma Donoghue.