The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
English | 2020|Historical Fiction | LGBT| ePUB | 3.9 MB
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.
I stared at the slumped figure of Ita Noonan. Head up, to ease her breathing, or feet up, for better pulse force? Or keep her flat—would that be the best compromise or no good for either problem? Every symptom was a word, yes, but I couldn’t understand them, couldn’t follow.
Bridie was mopping the floor, unasked. Such generous stamina this young woman had. I thanked her.
You’re welcome, Julia.
She said my first name a little shyly, as if trying it on for size.
Outside the window, it was black; all the light had slipped away now.
Bridie remarked, I hate the old evenings.
When the night draws in and you have to go to bed, but you can’t get to sleep no matter how you try. Cursing yourself because you’ll be sorry in the morning when you can’t drag yourself up at the bell.
That sounded like a bleak life. I wondered whether the Sweeneys were in very straitened circumstances. Were Bridie’s parents harsh with her?
I looked at the cot on the left but it was empty, the sheets a risen wave. For half a stupid moment, I couldn’t tell where Ita Noonan had gone.
I ran around Mary O’Rahilly’s bed, barking my shin on the metal.
Against the skirting board, Ita Noonan thrashed like a fish, eyes rolled back. Her legs were trapped in the blankets, her arms lashing out. She banged her head on the corner of the little cabinet.
Bridie cried out, Jesus wept!
I couldn’t tell if Ita Noonan was breathing. A stink went up from her bowels. I knelt over her, crammed a pillow behind her head. One hand whacked me on the breast.
Should we stick a spoon in her mouth? asked Bridie.
No, it’d smash her teeth. More pillows!
The thud of her feet, the slam as she ransacked the cupboard.
I stayed helplessly on my knees, trying to keep Ita Noonan from breaking any bones as she convulsed under me. Rose-streaked foam leaked out the side of her mouth. I needed to get her lying on her side so she wouldn’t choke, but it was impossible, wedged as she was in this gap. Her feet were still up on the cot, knotted in the blankets.
The childhood prayer threaded through my head: Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour—
Bridie dropped three pillows into my arms.
But Ita Noonan was limp now. No writhing; no rise and fall of her chest.
I wiped her mouth with my apron, bent, and put my cheek to her lips.