Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Astray by Emma Donoghue

Astray (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Emma Donoghue

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4302624,529 (3.71)62
Authors:Emma Donoghue
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Astray by Emma Donoghue (2012)

  1. 00
    The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue (Cariola)
    Cariola: A similar collection of short stories, also based on historical figures, by the same author.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 62 mentions

English (25)  French (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Fascinating brief stories based in history, each followed by a brief explication by Donoghue wherein the author details the microform or print article she found that germinated the notion for the story. The opener is about a famous elephant that Barnum & Bailey bought from a London entertainment park; another features an unhappy slave-owner's fie and the slave who together absconded; a third tale was invented but inspired by the Klondike Gold Rush. Maybe my favourite story featured the two lady sculptors who created the huge lion feature on Queen Elizabeth Way for the royal visit of 1967 (now relocated to Sir Cazimir Gzowski Park in Toronto), now seen in an old folks' home after 60 "Sapphist" years spent together; Frances "Queenie" Loring has become senile with brief flashes, while Florence Wyle hung on to her memories for another year or so. Emma Donoghue hails from Ireland, achieved a PhD in English at Oxford at a young age; she now lives in Ontario. My only complaint is that this "1st Canadian ed." is in American english. Authors need to protest. Publishers need to show respect. Quite possibly the author didn't care, but she is Irish (Dublin 1969, and Oxford-educated). By contrast, Ian McEwen's Atonement, published by Knopf, retains its British spelling.

Quote: p. 250 "Queenie's a vast model for a monument--all two hundred pounds of her clay slapped onto a gigantic wire armature--and as for me, I'm some skinny leftover. Maybe I'm a Giacometti and she's a Henry Moore!" ( )
  Muzzorola | Aug 24, 2016 |
Astray is collection of short stories that have the common theme of individuals emigrating from one life to another. It is divided up into stories labeled as "Departures," "In Transit," and "Arrivals and Aftermaths." All of the stories are historical fiction ranging from 1639 through 1967 that are inspired from real historical records. Some are about real historical people and others are based on a sentence in a newspaper. I enjoyed most of the stories. They show snippets of the history of North America (most of the stories take place in the United States and Canada; those that do not have characters that are departing for North America). I also liked how Donoghue described the historical person or document that inspired each story. Those based on real people often included a description of what happened to that person later in life. I would recommend this collection to those that enjoy short stories and historical fiction - especially historical fiction set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in North America. ( )
  Cora-R | Jan 13, 2016 |
Not being a huge short story fan I started this book with a little bit of trepidation, especially after having loved “Room” so much. But, despite the format, I enjoyed this book very much. Each story is a vignette taken from history, a newspaper article, a well known legend or a footnote from another source and Ms. Donoghue brings the characters to life. Taking the reader on a trip through different time periods and across North America we get a little taste of everything; love, crime, despair, happiness, laughter and tears. Whether writing with humour, drama or poignancy Ms. Donoghue does it extremely well.

When I was deciding whether or not to pick up this book I read some on line reviews where one reviewer suggested reading the “afterword” first. I didn’t do that but I agree with that reviewer, I wish I had. If you read this all in one sitting or if you read it in bits and pieces between other books it is definitely a book you will want to pick up.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
An interesting set of short stories, each based on some historical events from about a century or two ago. Many were depressing, but quite realistic. I almost gave this 3 stars because the main points are not really to my taste, but her writing is quite good & the historical points are excellent. That made it worth listening too for me.

I listened to this because I've heard a lot of good things about a novel of hers, but didn't think her style would suit me. I'm more convinced of that. Plot points she finds interesting tend to bore me, so I don't think I'll read the novel, but am very glad I listened to this. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Aug 18, 2014 |
Astray is a fascinating and diverse collection of fourteen short stories/vignettes loosely based on snippets from letters, newspaper articles, footnotes, and other historical documents. Donoghue has taken these small pieces and used both her research and her imagination to flesh them out into complete characters and stories. They range across centuries (from the 17th to the 20th) and are set in various places (London, Texas, Ontario, Massachusetts, and more), and the main characters come from all walks of life: a young Hessian soldier in the Revolutionary war, an elephant keeper, two Gold Rush prospectors, a pair of female sculptors, a runaway slave, a prostitute, a young widowed mother unable to support her child--to name but a few. What they all have in common is that each has in some way taken a life journey that has gone astray, whether due to accident, ambition, corruption, madness, or the pinch of necessity. Each story is followed by a brief explanation of the document that inspired it and what Donoghue learned about the real-life characters' fates. I found two of the stories that were based on letters particularly moving. "Counting Down the Days" tells of a young Irish man who emigrated to Canada, leaving his wife and baby behind; now, at last, she is sailing to join him. In "The Gift," an impoverished young widow reluctantly gives her baby daughter into the care of a social services agency; they place her in a foster home and eventually facilitate her adoption. The story consists of letters written by the birth mother, who attempts to retrieve her lost daughter, and by her adoptive father.

Astray bears some similarities to Donoghue's earlier collection, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, but her skills as a writer have been finely tuned since 2002. While not all of the stories are equally strong, there is something admirable in each, and something here for everyone. Highly recommended. ( )
3 vote Cariola | Jan 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Tell us underneath what skies,
Upon what coasts of earth we have been cast;
We wander, ignorant of men and places,
And driven by the wind and the vast waves.
-Virgil, The Aeneid,
translated by Allen Mandelbaum (1971)
First words
Off your tuck this morning, aren't you?
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316206296, Hardcover)

The fascinating characters that roam across the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, drifters, lovers old and new. They are gold miners and counterfeiters, attorneys and slaves. They cross other borders too: those of race, law, sex, and sanity. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress.

With rich historical detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts to revolutionary New Jersey, antebellum Louisiana to the Toronto highway, lighting up four centuries of wanderings that have profound echoes in the present. Astray offers us a surprising and moving history for restless times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:03 -0400)

A collection of short stories featuring a cross-section of society including runaways, drifters, gold miners, counterfeiters, attorneys, and slaves from Puritan Massachusetts and revolutionary New Jersey to antebellum Louisiana.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
2 avail.
64 wanted
4 pay6 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.71)
1 1
2 9
2.5 3
3 23
3.5 9
4 47
4.5 7
5 16


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 109,832,334 books! | Top bar: Always visible