“Emerging onto the street, I nearly walked into a disinfection cart. It’s sweet, tangy tang marked the air. I ducked away from the masked men who were spraying the gutters and feeding their hose through the grating of gully after gully. ...Children carrying suitcases were filing into the train station as we swung past, being sent down the country in hopes they’d be safe. But from what I could gather, the plague was general all over Ireland. The specter had a dozen names: the great flu, khaki flu, blue flu, black flu.”
I’m Betty Martin and those are some lines from the first chapter of Emma Donoghue’s novel The Pull of the Stars. The story takes place over three days of the life and work of a thirty year old nurse, Julia Power. She works in the Maternity/Fever ward. Well, not a ward really, but a supply closet converted to a a room for pregnant women who are also suffering from the deadly virus of 1918. There was just enough room for three beds and a window that can be opened.
Julia works fourteen hour days easing the discomfort of the women in her charge, helping some of them to give birth and others to die with dignity. The chapters are titled "Red," "Brown," "Blue" and Black after the progression of a person’s skin color as the virus takes hold.
This timely novel was published in July of 2020 . In her notes Donoghue says, “Above all, thank you to all the health-care workers who risk so much and into whose hands we give ourselves.”
If you’re looking for a novel of hope and survival against all odds, then you must read The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue.