Emma Donoghue novel on last pandemic to hit Ireland to be rushed out in July

The Pull of the Stars is set during the Spanish flu epidmic and features Dr Kathleen Lynn

Many major new books due to come out this spring have had their publication date put back several months, some even until next year. A new novel by Emma Donoghue, however, is so timely that it it is being rushed out in July, having originally been pencilled in for spring 2021.

Picador will publish The Pull of the Stars by the bestselling author of Room and The Wonder, on July 23rd. Little, Brown will publish in the US and HarperCollins in Canada, also in July.

The Pull of The Stars tells an uncannily familiar story of remarkable nurses and doctors working on the medical front line of the Great Flu epidemic of 1918-20.

It is, the publisher says, “an intimate, intoxicating and deeply moving novel about work and risk, life and death, care and love. The Pull of the Stars tells a story of how love, compassion and humanity can survive in the bleakest of circumstances.”


Donoghue said: “Back in October 2018, the centenary of the Great Flu prompted me to start The Pull of the Stars, set in a Dublin maternity ward at the height of the misery in 1918. Two days after I delivered my final draft, Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in a changed world where the creeping dread and ethical dilemmas of ordinary citizens and the sacrifices of frontline healthcare workers were front and centre again. The Pull of the Stars is a study of everyday heroism in a time of terror, and I couldn’t be more honoured to be publishing it with Picador this July.”

Ravi Mirchandani, editor in chief at Picador, said: “Emma Donoghue’s new novel brings to life Dublin at the end of the first World War, in the grip of Spanish flu, imagining and recreating a world of men damaged in body and mind and of women facing challenges of life and death – and the frustrations of everyday sexism. The stories of Julia Power, Kathleen Lynn and Bridie Sweeney are deeply involving and profoundly moving. We at Picador are delighted to be publishing Emma’s intense and beautiful new novel, intense in the engagement it produces in the reader, and beautiful in its humanity.”

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented and stressed world enter two outsiders: Dr Kathleen Lynn, wanted by the police as a Sinn Féin revolutionary leader, 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 disease, 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 real life, Lynn, the Mayo-born daughter of a Church of Ireland clergyman, co-founded St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants with her great friend Madeleine ffrench-Mullen in 1919. She had been politicised by the suffrage movement, and James Connolly’s brand of socialism and Helena Molony’s trade unionism converted her to republicanism. She was commander of the City Hall Garrison during the 1916 Rising, and chief medical officer of the Irish Citizen Army. After imprisonment in Kilmainham Jail, she became vice-president of Sinn Féin, being elected a TD in 1923.

Picador will also be releasing The Pull of The Stars in ebook and audio. Rebecca Lloyd, publishing director for audio at Pan Macmillan, is working with Michele McGonigle at US publisher Hachette Audio to locate a Dublin studio which can facilitate a safe recording environment for reader Emma Lowe (Mrs Brady in the film of Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn) during the global lockdown.