I read this book in just two sittings. I really, really liked it. The only reason I didn’t love it is that I felt it finished quite abruptly, which was a shame.
I should flag that if you are in anyway squeamish it might be best to give this one a miss. There’s a fair bit of blood, amniotic fluid, and contracting uterus talk, along with some eye-watering, leg-crossing descriptions of early 20th century midwifery methods. If you’re still with me, then hurrah, this is the book for you!
Set in the middle of a flu pandemic -and just two years after the 1916 Rising- Donoghue’s latest novel feels oddly familiar in 2020. Dublin is experiencing a societal shift. The aftermath of the war combined with the uncertainty of a public health crisis has everyone is a little on edge.
A shortage of staff unexpectedly affords 30-year-old Nurse Julia Power a chance to shine. She finds herself in charge of a small ward of pregnant patients admitted with the flu.
The story takes place in this small but mighty ward over the course of few days. Any scenes outside of the ward are short-lived and, bar one important rooftop detour, feel superfluous to the story.
Nurse Power’s domain has a life of its own and Dononghue does an excellent job of conjuring her patients. I would happily have read on for another few weeks of ward activity but alas, the novel wraps up a little abruptly – and in my opinion – unconviencingly.
Whether or not this due to a rumoured hurried publication date owing to the timeliness of the public health crisis storyline, I couldn’t definitively tell you… I can however, imagine what a different animal the novel may have become with a little more time to breathe.