Acclaimed writer Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, The Pull of the Stars, takes readers to Dublin in 1918, doubly ravaged by war and disease, in a makeshift maternity ward for expectant mothers with the flu. The story’s uncanny parallels to the current pandemic, social inequities, and precarious politics inspired Little, Brown and Company to publish her novel a year ahead of schedule.
Donoghue was joined in conversation by Booker Prize-winning novelist Roddy Doyle whose witty and moving new novel Love, published in June by Viking Books, is also set in Dublin.
Check out this lively talk between two beloved storytellers from the Emerald Isle!
The Pull of the Stars
By Emma Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown and Company
Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. A small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, 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 fallen sick are quarantined into a separate ward to keep the plague at bay. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Dr. Kathleen Lynn (based on the real Dr. Kathleen Lynn) who is a rumored Rebel, and a teenage girl, Bridie, procured by the nuns from their orphanage as an extra set of hands. At first Bridie seems unschooled in life—she makes up a bed with only the rubber mat, and savors the weak tea and barely edible porridge from the hospital kitchen. But in the intensity of this ward, over three brutal days, Julia and the women come together in unexpected ways. In the darkness, in the despair, as people die quickly and cruelly from the capricious disease without a known cure, they shepherd new life. Women give birth, and these tough, remarkable women do the jobs they have to do with tenderness and humanity.
By Roddy Doyle
Published by Viking
One summer’s evening, two men meet up in a Dublin restaurant. Drinking pals back in their youth, now married and with grown up children, their lives have taken seemingly similar paths. But Joe has a secret he needs to tell Davy, and Davy has a sorrow he wants to keep from Joe. Both are not the men they used to be.
Joe has left his wife and family for another woman, Jessica. Davy knows her too, or should – she was the girl of their dreams four decades earlier, the girl with the cello in George’s pub. As Joe’s story unfolds across Dublin – pint after pint, pub after pub – so too do the memories of what eventually drove Davy from Ireland: his first encounter with Faye, the lively woman who would become his wife; his father’s somber disapproval; the pained spaces left behind when a parent dies.
As the two friends try to reconcile their versions of the past over the course of one night, Love offers a delightfully comic yet moving portrait of the many forms love can take throughout our lives..