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The year 2020 starts like any other. Only in the Wuhan province of China is there an ominous shadow which slightly subdues the New Year celebrations. Far away in Cape Town, South Africa, Emily Harper and her family begin the year as usual. Emily is an anaesthesiologist. The precise and orderly nature of her career suits her perfectionist personality seamlessly and she flourishes in this demanding environment.


Soon the spectre of the pandemic begins to loom, scarily unfamiliar, on the horizon. For Emily’s family, as for the rest of the world, there are changes, fears and uncertainties. But for Emily, the Covid-19 pandemic means more than this. She must go to war each day, dressed in her stifling protective armour, coping with the chaos produced by a disease about which there is still so little known. Her ordered world falls apart. Not only is there the physical exhaustion, but also the emotional trauma. The increasing isolation she feels, living in a parallel universe to that of her family, makes her turn increasingly to colleagues for help and support. Having struggled for years with a somewhat tenuous marriage, Emily shocks herself by being tempted to start a liaison with Ethan, a physician who is new to the hospital. With her defences down and her world falling apart, she is increasingly attracted to his quiet, sincere manner and his very obvious involvement with and love for his children. Ironically, the biggest stumbling block in her relationship with Shaun, his macho arrogance and his inability to accept their son, Oliver, for the person that he is, changes radically during lockdown. Shaun spends more time with his children, enough to learn to appreciate both them and his role in their lives. Emily is so busy that she doesn’t even realise the changes that are happening. By the time she does, she has to make an agonising decision at a time when she is at her lowest ebb.


‘Breathless’ is a window into the world of the lives of health care workers during the nightmare of Covid-19. It recounts how no amount of groundwork could prepare them for the tsunami before it hit, leaving pain, exhaustion and grief in its wake. But despite the deluge, despite the debris, it is a tribute to the resilience of many courageous people who made a difference in helping to win the war.

Breathless by Cathy Donald

SKU: 9791220118422
  • Cathy Donald was born and educated in Gqeberha / Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. From an early age she loved writing stories, and later became involved in speech and drama, as well as script writing for dramatic productions and musicals. Her career path, however, led her in a different direction and she qualified as a medical doctor at the University of the Witwatersrand, subsequently working in rural hospitals as well as urban private practices. Since her children have become adults, she has again been able to indulge her passion for words and stories.
    She has written and published five novels over the past eight years; "The Reluctant Cuckoo" (2016), "Miles to Go" (2018) "The Silence of the Shadows" (2020) “Breathless” (2022) and “The First Stone” (2023)
    In 2022, her novel “The Silence of the Shadows” was awarded the Jury prize at the Milan International Literary Awards. 

    She lives in Somerset West with her husband, Roy, and has three adult children.

    All her novels celebrate family and friendship and the life-affirming values that mean so much to her. Most are set in South Africa and handle issues that are relevant both to fellow South Africans and to the world at large.

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