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The Pull of the Stars (New York: Little Brown; Toronto: HarperCollins Canada; London: Picador, 2020).
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. 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. 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, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

The Pull of the Stars is Donoghue’s thirteenth novel (and seventeenth book of fiction). It made the bestseller lists in the US (New York Times), Canada, Ireland and the UK on publication and was the Barnes & Noble Book Club choice for August, a Reader's Digest Book Club Pick and an Australian Women's Weekly Book Club Pick as well as an Oprah Magazine Best Book of Summer 2020 and a Chapters Indigo Best Book of 2020. The unabridged audiobook read by Emma Lowe won an AudioFile Earphones award.

A personal note: I began this novel in October 2018, inspired by the centenary of the Great Flu of 1918-19, and I delivered the final draft to my publishers in March 2020, two days before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. As soon as I began researching the Great Flu, one fact that leapt out at me was that women before, during and for weeks after birth were particularly vulnerable to catching and suffering terrible complications from that virus. I’ve put into this story some of the labour dramas of women I know (and one of my own), and all my gratitude to frontline health workers who see us through our most frightening and transformative experiences. I could have set The Pull of the Stars anywhere, but I went for my home town of Dublin partly because Ireland was going through such a fascinating political metamorphosis in those years, and because I wanted to reckon with my country’s complicated history of carers, institutions and motherhood.

To buy The Pull of the Stars:

In the US
https://www.littlebrown.com/titles/emma-donoghue/the-pull-of-the-stars/9780316499019/

In Canada
https://www.harpercollins.ca/9781443461788/the-pull-of-the-stars/

In the UK
https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/emma-donoghue/the-pull-of-the-stars/9781529046151

Wherever you live, please support your local indie bookstore!

EXTRAS

Read excerpts of The Pull of the Stars here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/books/review/the-pull-of-the-stars-by-emma-donoghue-an-excerpt.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/books/archive/2020/05/emma-donoghue-the-pull-of-the-stars-excerpt/610816/

https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/books/a32825423/emma-donoghue-novel-pull-of-the-stars-excerpt/

https://www.lambdaliterary.org/2020/07/pull-of-the-stars/

Articles by me:

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2020/07/24/emma-donoghue-this-was-an-eerie-experience-living-through-two-pandemics-at-once.html

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/two-days-after-i-delivered-my-last-draft-the-who-declared-covid-19-a-pandemic-emma-donoghues-timely-new-novel-is-set-in-ireland-during-spanish-flu-outbreak-39378652.html

https://www.waterstones.com/blog/emma-donoghue-on-the-impact-of-the-spanish-flu-in-ireland

And interviews:

https://www.theatlantic.com/books/archive/2020/05/emma-donoghue-interview-the-pull-of-the-stars-the-blood-tax/610828/

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/emma-donoghue/id1220910735?i=1000485581240

BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000l0r5

 https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2020-07-21/emma-donoghue-the-pull-of-the-stars-profile

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-50-q/clip/15788203-emma-donoghues-prescient-pandemic-novel-reveals-health-political

TRANSLATIONS

The Pull of the Stars is forthcoming in Portuguese (Portugal and Brazil), Russian and Czech.

REVIEWS

'A timely, exquisite and unputdownable reminder of love and compassion in the smallest room where women are giving birth and other women are dying and yet love - in all its joy and complexity - still finds a place.' - Rachel Joyce

'A visceral, harrowing, and revelatory vision of life, death, and love in a time of pandemic. This novel is stunning.' - Emily St John Mandel

'With an urgency that brilliantly captures the high-stakes horror and exhilaration of life on a pandemic’s front lines, the Room author centers her latest spine-tingler on a maternity ward nurse charged with keeping new mothers—and herself—safe as the 1918 Great Flu sweeps Ireland. ... Imagine an episode of Grey's Anatomy set at the turn of the twentieth century and you'll have some idea of the chills and thrills of this medical drama from Donoghue ... Come for the heart-stopping prose, stay for the hair-raising glimpse of the people fighting at a pandemic's front lines.' - Oprah Magazine

'Eerily reminiscent of our current global health crisis, The Pull of the Stars brings readers intimately close to a world where health care workers risk it all to keep their patients alive.' - Time

'Gripping... searing portrait of women's lives... From these dark materials, Donoghue has fashioned a tale of heroism that reads like a thriller, complete with gripping action sequences, mortal menaces and triumphs all the more exhilarating for being rare and hard-fought. ... Many novels depict the brotherhood of men at war. Donoghue celebrates the sisterhood of women bringing life into the world and those who help them along this perilous journey.  ... Many novels depict the brotherhood of men at war. Donoghue celebrates the sisterhood of women bringing life into the world and those who help them along this perilous journey.  - ... blunt lyricism characteristic of Donoghue’s eloquent, no-frills writing style. ... As in her best-known work, the deservedly megaselling “Room,” Donoghue infuses catastrophic circumstances with an infectious — but by no means blind — faith in human compassion, endurance and resilience.' - Washington Post

'Her prose sings with blunt poetry ... a story rich in swift, assured sketches of achingly human characters coping as best they can in extreme circumstances. Darkly compelling, illuminated by the light of compassion and tenderness: Donoghue’s best novel since Room.' - Kirkus (starred review)

'It doesn’t feel, though, like a historical novel at all. “The Pull of the Stars” moves with the quickness of a thriller ... Donoghue has pulled off another feat: She wrote a book about a 100-year-old flu that feels completely current, down to the same frustrations and tensions and hopes and dangers. And she did it without even knowing just how relevant it would be' - LA Times

'Outstanding... Although there is much suffering in this novel, there are also many glimmers of light representing hope, unexpected love and Julia’s medical triumphs. These operations constitute stunning set pieces imbued with drama, tension and rare emotional force. ... This intense and intimate novel unfolds over three days. But we would gladly spend longer with Julia, watching her in awe as she grapples with life and death.' - Minneapolis Star-Tribune

'Donoghue swerves away from contrivance: She's such a deft, lyrical and sometimes even cheeky writer. ... she's given us our first pandemic  caregiver novel — an engrossing and inadvertently topical story about health care workers inside small rooms fighting to preserve life.' - NPR Fresh Air

'An evocative, and almost eerily timely work ... gripping and terrifying moment. - Vogue

'Eerily prescient novel set during a flu pandemic ... the perfect read for right now.' - Good Housekeeping

'Offers vivid characters and a gripping portrait of a world beset by a pandemic and political uncertainty. A fascinating read in these difficult times. Readers ardently pursue every book by Donoghue, but the prescient pandemic theme and valiant nurse protagonist in her latest will increase interest exponentially.’ - Booklist (starred review)

'Beyond timely and supremely written. Book clubs, read this now.' - South Coast Today

'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

''This one is timely as well as impeccably researched and immensely readable, as always with Donoghue.' - Toronto Star

'It is a heady mix and one Donoghue stirs and shakes with trademark aplomb. ... Donoghue’s novel, which takes place over a harrowing three days, is 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.'  - Postmedia Network

'A beautifully modulated historical novel ... Donoghue’s prose is visceral, and the sense of peril in the cramped, tiny ward is compelling. ... there is tenderness and even beauty amid the horror' - The Observer

'Ambitious in scope and particularly good on the war ... The labour sequences read like descriptions of military campaigns, and the lack of quotation marks allows the action in the ward and the barked orders to swim together in a way that is engagingly chaotic.' - Literary Review

'Moving and memorable' - Daily Mail

'Broad social and intimately personal elements come together beautifully in the visceral yet eloquent The Pull of the Stars.. the novel displays the narrative pull, emotional warmth and psychological acuity Donoghue brought to her earlier novels. ...With its thoughtful heroine making life or death decisions, the novel would have been eye-opening and moving if it had been published at any time. But the dilemmas people encountered in 1918 are especially relevant today.' - bbc.com

'This moving tale of Spanish Flu in Ireland feels bang on the nose. ... '[I] cram[med] in every last word in the space of 24 hours, even as I flinched at how the terrors of the past were suddenly so continguous with the horrors of the present ... she again conjures up a setting that is at once claustrophobic in feel yet epic in sweep. ... I read much of the childbirth descriptions through my fingers. By the end I had a lump in my throat. For the dead yes, for the dying too, but above all for the hope. The Covid-19 zeitgeist deserves nothing less.'- Telegraph

'It is some cocktail and Donoghue mixes the ingredients with impressive skill' - Mail on Sunday

'At once harrowing and heartening ... Among the novel’s strongest attractions is the interaction between the three women. ... The brief timespan makes for succinctness and intimacy. ... Emma Donoghue takes the stuff of a newspaper headline as a starting point, and expands and transforms its core element into an original and arresting work of fiction.' - Times Literary Supplement

'Emma Donoghue’s best novel since Room is a mesmeric, blood, sweat and placenta-soaked story' - Metro

'[Julia] carries the story with the affecting first-person immediacy that Donoghue is known for. ... The Pull of the Stars is an immersive, unforgettable fever-dream of a novel. It’s almost pathological in the way it infects you, pushes you to your limits and then drops you back in to real life feeling bruised and slightly wonky, but mostly just so grateful for the work that nurses do.' - Times

'Donoghue writes with such brilliant relish . . . fascinating and resonant' - Sunday Times

'The Pull of the Stars has a fever dream-like quality . . . as a tender record of humans coping as best they can with a pandemic, it's about as moving and absorbing as it gets [...] Timely, punchy and gripping'Evening Standard

'Moving, gripping and dazzlingly written' - Stylist

'A defining strength in Emma Donoghue’s work is narrative voice, and here it is as strong and compelling as Jack in Room and Lib in The Wonder . . . a haunting and finely balanced literary novel ... complex, well-developed characters with distinctive voices and lives based on thorough research, vivid in ways that only excellent writing can offer.' - The Guardian

'Vivid retelling of a past pandemic has profound resonance today... rarely can a novel have been as prescient and timely... the novel zips by with the pace of a thriller ... Donoghue conjures up the period brilliantly ... even the minor characters are well-rounded and believable. ... there's sadness aplenty, but also a little love and hope amid the body-count, and the book flies by like a hospital shift, as drama follows crisis and victory chases tragedy in a never-ending cycle of suffering, joy and bodily fluids.' - Sunday Business Post

'A pleasure to read... enticingly written... Donoghue does deliver with The Pull of the Stars.' - Irish Times

'A 'tarnished city' comes to life in observation that is sharp and painterly, forensic and dreamy. ... This childbirth at the knife edge, with fine drama made of its pickings, but the book comes from a place of profound sensitivity and respect for women and their little ones. ... Donoghue [is] a cultural historian of no minor stature. ... Emma Donoghue [is a] giant of letters. It is rare for such a fast-paced story to be told so beautifully, and the writing is comical and exquisite.' - Irish Independent

'All men should read Emma Donoghue’s flawless The Pull of the Stars ... The Dublin-born writer is one of our greatest living prose stylists. ... She is serious, wise and funny. She draws from the mind’s eye and has a perfect ear for language as it is spoken. ... The extended, visceral, agonising scenes where the women try to deliver their babies while fighting for their own lives are unforgettable. ... Nurse Power, Bridie Sweeney and Dr Lynn are three of the most compelling characters I have seen in a novel. The men are there, too, in the background, and the author makes us feel for them too ... This novel is a rare sort of page-turner. You cannot stop reading ... This is a must-read novel.' - The Australian

'Certainly, the currency of The Pull of the Stars gives it a gripping edge, but at its heart this is a story about friendship, love and compassion in extraordinary times [...] It's an engrossing read. Donoghue's writing is visceral and her female characters strike a powerful chord of humanity that stays with you' - Australian Women's Weekly

 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Wendy Smith, 'Emma Donoghue’s ‘The Pull of the Stars’ sets a gripping story in the midst of the 1918 flu pandemic', Washington Post 21 July 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/emma-donoghues-the-pull-of-the-stars-sets-a-gripping-story-in-the-midst-of-the-1918-flu-pandemic/2020/07/21/10a43968-cb5b-11ea-bc6a-6841b28d9093_story.html

Karen Thompson Walker, 'Don’t Believe History Repeats Itself? Read This Book', New York Times 21 July 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/books/review/the-pull-of-the-stars-emma-donoghue.html or https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/books/review/the-pull-of-the-stars-emma-donoghue.html?unlocked_article_code=AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACEIPuonUktbfq4hkT1UZAibfWt8ktVqciObOzaN7mn_zaTCITTIHyOpQH4iNvlzRbLB4ItY22j3eSNhHN7AvWfE0zvNaOwYlbTiUlaa-ucZPJTQp-8X0V3kq3pnJUPc1-2O0YzW1JaJ0lLDl-k_ZaDX1Ufbe2GkkJAtlqMFkJV6hiyAY1-ySRL4Or9p63v4rBJx6Ry5RJ3XZ-qm1VGgtfYmOfRre6QApWu9GWjm1ndWU6L0Icwg6GkuRBTokoj56sIUATYtRaKXvLBcged78iKETDwFrL4SpAJ4xQuvEhro1ieKGkoMvc2iRE1P8rIs

Eliana Dockterman, 'A Novel Set in a 1918 Flu Pandemic Maternity Ward Offers a Stark Warning for the Present', Time 22 July 2020, https://time.com/5870076/emma-donoghue-pull-of-the-stars/

Maureen Corrigan, '1918 Flu Inspired Donoghue's 'Pull Of The Stars' — A Disquieting Pandemic Novel', Fresh Air (NPR) 20 July 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/07/20/892279658/1918-flu-inspired-donoghues-pull-of-the-stars-a-disquieting-pandemic-novel

Judith Woods, 'The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue review: ready or not, the pandemic novel is here', Telegraph 18 July 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/pull-stars-emma-donoghue-review-ready-not-pandemic-novel/

Patricia Craig, 'A Better Influence: Three women rebel to save lives during Dublin's influenza pandemic in The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue,' Times Literary Supplement 17 July 2020, https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/the-pull-of-the-stars-emma-donoghue-review-patricia-craig/

 

 

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The Pull of the Stars