A familiar crisis

EMMA DONOGHUE GOES TO DARK PLACES. HER most famous work, 2010’s centered on a woman who had been kidnapped, raped and forced by her captor to raise her child in a one-room shed. Her 2014 novel took place in 1870s San Francisco during a smallpox epidemic. Stressful premises like these make for page-turning books—every decision a protagonist makes in these circumstances is life-or-death. And Donoghue’s latest novel is both urgent and eerily prescient: is set in a maternity ward in a Dublin hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic. The author submitted her manuscript to Little, Brown, in March, when the COVID-19 outbreak was starting to shut down European and U.S. cities; the publisher rushed the book to print.

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