Donoghue’s searing tale (after Akin) takes readers to a Dublin beleaguered by wartime shortages and ravaged by a lethal new strain of influenza. On Halloween in 1918, nurse Julia Powers, single and ambivalent about marriage, is about to turn 30. When Julia’s supervisor gets the flu, Julia is left alone serving a ward of high-risk pregnant influenza patients. Kathleen Lynn (the story’s only historical figure), an activist involved with the radical Sinn Féin party, supplements Julia’s own knowledge of obstetrics, and volunteer Bridey Sweeney arrives to help with the backbreaking work. Julia feels a powerful draw to the smart and willing Bridey, whose optimism belies her impoverished upbringing in a brutal charity orphanage. As they cope with the ward’s unceasing cycle of birth and death, their closeness challenges Julia’s sense of herself and her life. While the novel’s characters and plot feel thinner than the best of the author’s remarkable oeuvre, her blunt prose and detailed, painstakingly researched medical descriptions do full justice to the reality of the pandemic and the poverty that helps fuel it. Donoghue’s evocation of the 1918 flu, and the valor it demands of health-care workers, will stay with readers. (July)
Reviewed on : 05/06/2020 Release date: 07/21/2020 Genre: Fiction
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