Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, The Pull of the Stars, includes a couple of elements that would normally turn me off of a novel — and, in many cases, DNF one: no quotation marks and extremely long chapters. Luckily, it also is made of things I often look for in a new read: a female-centric story, a strong sense of place, and an utterly gripping storyline. In the end, the good far outweighed the bad. I loved it.
The story takes place over just a few days in an Irish maternity/flu ward during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. Nurse Julia Power is tasked with taking care of flu-ridden laboring mothers and their babies until they're able to go home. The ward is really nothing more than a room, three beds cramped together without much support aside from Nurse Julia and an inexperienced volunteer. As you would expect with early 20th century childbirth on top of a devastating pandemic, the story is emotional. In it, Donoghue touches on such timely (or, in some ways, timeless) themes as healthcare, pregnancy/motherhood, societal expectations and abuses of power.[Read more...] about The Pull of the Stars + Irish Barmbrack