The Pull of the Stars

The Pull of the Stars is a book by Emma Donoghue.

Emma Donoghue

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, 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. (From HarperCollins Canada)

The Pull of the Stars is on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Emma Donoghue is an Irish Canadian writer. Her books include the novels LandingRoomFrog MusicThe Wonder and the children's book The Lotterys Plus One.

From the book

The mortuary was deserted. I'd been down to its white chill before, but I'd never seen it so eerily full of coffins. Six high against all four walls, like firewood stacked ready for the furnace. I wondered how the attendants remembered who was who–did they pencil the names on the sides?

So many!

Doctor Lynn murmured, This is nothing. Out at the cemetery there are hundreds of caskets piled up, waiting their turn. Hazardous to the living, I call it. The Germans – an eminently practical race – cremate their dead.


A shocking notion, but fas est ab hoste doceri, you know.

My face was blank, so she glossed that: Learn even from enemies. It wouldn't surprise me if this flu turned out to be caused by a miasma of rot blowing over from the battlefields…

From The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue ©2020. Published by HarperCollins Canada

Interviews with Emma Donoghue

Featured VideoThe Pull of the Stars tells the story of three women — a nurse, a doctor and an activist — in war-ravaged Ireland during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Emma Donoghue spoke with Dr. Brian Goldman, host of White Coat Black Art, about the inspiration for the novel. The book was written well before the outbreak of the coronavirus, and Donoghue was surprised by the way it mirrors our current situation but relishes the opportunity to talk about the role of health-care workers in challenging times.

More books by Emma Donoghue

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now