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Publisher's Summary

In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in "Donoghue's best novel since Room" (Kirkus Reviews).

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.

©2020 Emma Donoghue, Ltd. (P)2020 Hachette Audio

Editor's Pick

Historical fiction from the author of Room?
Yes, please.
I have many reasons to anticipate this story: I cried and cheered at Emma Donoghue’s Room; I love historical fiction; and 1918—the year of my grandmother’s birth—has a special place in my heart. I knew The Pull of the Stars would feel familiar in some ways, and in other ways I was hoping it could take me away from the US circa 2020. Surprisingly, I underestimated how familiar it would feel to listen to the daily struggles of three women, exhausted by World War I and the onslaught of a pandemic...I also miscalculated how much Emma Lowe’s authentic and engaging accent would provide a welcome respite from my own daily life. Her performance turns out to be just the vacation I needed this month! —Christina H., Audible Editor

What listeners say about The Pull of the Stars

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A compelling that relates to today’s times

I’ve never really listened to/read a book like this and it was a gut wrenching experience. The Pull of the Stars follows a nurse treating patients in a maternity ward during the Spanish Influenza, almost 100 years ago exactly! And even then, when they couldn’t see the virus (a strong enough microscope hadn’t been invented yet), people were afraid, and cautious, and they cared about the lives of their countrymen. The present day United States has all the resources to prevent the majority of tragedies that occurred in this book, and yet we are killing ourselves due to apathy. Nurse Julia and her runner Bridie work tirelessly for three days trying to save their patients and their babies, one of the most at risk populations (then and now). The emotions are high, hopes are dashed and then renewed over and over again. The Pull of the Stars is gruesome, and painful, and horrifying, and utterly so worth the read/listen.
Only wish there was less horrid singing (just a few lines is a few lines too many) & be prepared to skip back a few times since the accent is sort of thick at times!

27 people found this helpful

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Fantastic listen

Author Emma Donoghue decided to honor the century mark of the Spanish Flu pandemic in 2018. She thoroughly researched the pandemic, wanting the novel to be an authentic historical fiction story that reflected reality. Her final draft was completed in March 2020, at the beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Her publishers fast-tracked the publication. Unbeknownst to Donoghue, she caught the fear, frustration, and horror of that time that we are currently mirroring in this pandemic.

“Pull of the Stars” is a story of one nurse’s 3-day journey in a maternity ward. Julia Power is a midwife and a nurse who is about to turn 30 at the beginning of the story. She’s working in a former supply room that has been repurposed for a maternity ward for the expectant mothers who suffer the flu. Julia is “promoted” to lead nurse when there are no other staff available. Alone, she needs a runner/helper. In walks Bridie Sweeney, an orphan of the Catholic church, sent by the nuns.

We learn of the poverty of Ireland at that time. Julia’s patients are malnourished, underweight, and frail. Donoghue excels at character development. We come to care for these sad ladies in their hopeless lives. Donoghue knows how to write nuisances that occur in a one room setting. I was there, with her characters, feeling their horrors and frustrations. The birthing complications are written with realistic horror. Trying to work in a hospital over-run with pandemic victims provides the reader with empathy to our health care workers who work in exhausted settings.

Donoghue uses Bridie to illuminate the horrors of Catholic orphanages at that time. Bridie doesn’t even know her age or her birthday. She was indoctrinated that she owed the nuns for her upbringing and education. She is in perpetual servitude to the nuns. The Catholic Church doesn’t come out well in this novel, especially the nuns. Bridie’s character makes this novel a duel historical fiction story: the pandemic and the cruelties of Catholic nun orphanages.

I loved this story because I was totally engrossed. I could not stop listening to the audio of this novel. Emma Lowe was superb in performance (although I wasn’t a fan of her singing voice LOL). Her voice added dimension to the story.

I highly rate the audio because In Emma Lowe’s voice, I felt like I was there with the characters. And of course the story that Donoghue created is amazing.

13 people found this helpful

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  • DC
  • 09-01-20

Reality...

...in 1918 and the issues (flu, resistance to oppression, women's rights, healthcare) are all relevant to today. I loved this book but I am a female healthcare professional who has worked a lot with pregnant women. If you don't want to know any details about what pregnant women experienced 100 years ago (or, as my friend who declined to read this book said "I don't have a strong stomach"), it might not be for you. But none of the details are gratuitous, they are all relevant. I also loved that the woman doctor who was an Irish resistance fighter was a real, historical figure and heroine. If you choose this book, be SURE to listen to the afterword. Highly recommended.

10 people found this helpful

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Story derailed toward end

I really enjoyed this book until the final quarter. The book took such an unexpected turn toward the end that I could imagine publishers saying ‘we need more here, how about adding something spicy!’ No spoilers, but the unexpected turn derailed the story and just didn’t make sense. The first three quarters of the book went one way and the last quarter went another. I did enjoy the historical detail.

9 people found this helpful

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A great book until homosexuality was thrown in

I loved learning about this time period and the pandemic from a nurse's point of view, but was disgusted and felt like it was out of left field when the main character had a homosexual encounter. it came out of nowhere and ruined a good book for me.

8 people found this helpful

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Could not stop listening.

At the start of the pandemic, the current one here in 2020, I purchased The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry. I read it cover to cover: the biology, physiology, politics, and overwhelming tallies of those afflicted. In 500 pages of that book, I was never once as shaken, astounded, or as deeply impacted as I was by this story. This story is a prime example of why the genre of historical fiction is so invaluable. Donoghue's writing never shies away from the realities or horrors or ugliness of a situation. And it never shies away from joy, passion, love, and all other deeply felt emotions. This story will stay with me, along with the brightness and hope that I imagine following the final scenes. Well done.

8 people found this helpful

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Women / Nursing / Pandemic / Childbirth

I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this audiobook. The key word here is "enjoyed". It was truly a wonderful escape listening to the women working together. I loved it. Excellent character development.

7 people found this helpful

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Strange turn in 4th part yet still a great book.

Overall I found this to be a very good book. It started a bit slowly yet drew me in . I could not stop listening and finished this title in less than 24 hours. The book is broken up into 4 parts and the first 3 parts were excellent. The fourth part did not seem to fit well with the previous 3 parts. Also the ending seemed to be not very well thought out. The story was great and the performance of the narrator was excellent. I would recommend this title as it was very good.

5 people found this helpful

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At her best!!!

This excellent book is Emma Donahue at her very best! The story is uplifting and heartbreaking. The characters vividly drawn and with such depth. Heartbreaking that so many of the medical facts are true, aided by the very true story of Dr. Lynn. The narration is suburb, easily putting the listener right in the middle of the story. This book ranks right behind "Room" as Donahue's best.

5 people found this helpful

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I give it 3.5 starts

3.5 stars A great book if you are really interested in maternity and delivery.
I thought the book was a lot more about the procedures in maternity and delivery nursing than it was in the pandemic. While interesting, for this non-medical person it was TMI.
I found the interactions and history of the 3 main women interesting. Tho the ending left me feeling "unfinished"
And of course the topic of the pandemic is very timely.
And who knew? Influenza - ‘blame the stars… thats what influenza means. influenza delle stelle - the influence of the stars. medieval italians thought the illness proved that the heavens were governing their fates.’

3 people found this helpful