Picador has scooped the “intoxicating” new novel from Room writer Emma Donoghue, telling the story of nurses and doctors working on the medical front line of 1918's great flu epidemic.
UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, were bought by Ravi Mirchandani, editor in chief, from Caroline Davidson at Caroline Davidson Literary Agency. Picador will publish The Pull of the Stars on 23rd July 2020. Little, Brown will also publish in the US and HarperCollins in Canada, also in July.
The synopsis explains: “Dublin, 1918. 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: Doctor 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.”
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.”
Picador will also be releasing the title in e-book 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 during the global lockdown.
Mirchandani said: “Emma Donoghue's new novel brings to life Dublin at the end of the World War I, 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.”