30 July 2020, The Tablet

Brushes with the bone man


The Pull of the Stars
(PICADOR, 304 PP, £16.99)
Tablet bookshop price £15.29 • 020 7799 4064

Permanently branded “author of Room ” – the title of her seventh novel – Emma Donoghue is happily able to reinvent herself with everything she writes. This, her fifteenth novel, is set over three days in a small Dublin hospital, and is the story of seven desperate women in the maternity/fever ward during the 1918 flu epidemic.

It is narrated by Nurse Julia Power, who describes the fate of her patients in grisly detail: “she cut, she scooped, I labelled, I bagged.” Fortunately, the reader is spared the use of “the hand-cranked wire saw” when an operation is avoided by hanging the patient’s legs off the bedstead.

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