Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2020
THE PULL OF THE STARS is especially appropriate considering what we're going through now with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The novel is set in 1918 Ireland during WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic. Julia Power is a nurse working in a hospital ward for pregnant women who have the flu. At the outset she is an underling to a sister who rules with an iron fist. She is not allowed to drive her bike to the hospital and must take the tram part of the way.
In short order the sister is moved to the maternity ward and Julia is on her own. She can't do it herself and begs for another pair of hands, which turns out to be Bridie Sweeney, who claims she's already had the flu, but she has no nursing experience and has really never been in a hospital. She is an orphan who is still living with the nuns. Another important cog is Dr. Lynn, a radical obstetrician who was a member of the Irish uprising. She's wanted.
Julia starts losing patients almost immediately. A woman has died before she got to work. One of her patients has been pregnant twelve times seven of which lived. Julia is critical of women being enslaved to pregnancy in 1918 Ireland. Another woman is rich or at least well off. She wants to leave. Now. It's not long before a seventeen-year-old pregnant girl shows up. She's worried that her husband will be mad because she'll miss work.
Julia is a good nurse and Bridie is an able helper who learns fast, but the women seem to be dying no matter how hard Julia works to help them. Dr. Lynn must deliver one child via forceps, and Julia dreads what can happen.
Most of the book is set in the maternity/flu ward but we know that Julia has a brother, Ted, who is apparently suffering from shell shock; he can't talk anyway, but they manage to communicate. The book might be better if we would get an occasional respite from the grisly goings on in the Julia's workplace, and the Ted situation might be it. Julia and Bridie do establish a relationship on the roof of the hospital after their shift.
Another theme of the book is how badly the poor, especially the orphan poor are treated in 1918 Ireland. The night sister treats Bridie like she's a derelict.
The ending is both sad and uplifting. At first I thought it was too abrupt and a little unrealistic, but once I had time to think about it, it was perfect.
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