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Astray by Emma Donoghue

Astray (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Emma Donoghue

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3732329,015 (3.72)50
Authors:Emma Donoghue
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read 2013

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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.

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English (23)  French (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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 |

Rarely does an anticipated book meet my expectations. This short story collection is one of those rare finds. I am so glad that I chose to read it when I did and I highly recommend it, not only for the entertainment value, but for the beautiful prose. Each story has a definitive voice. As a fan of historical fiction, I also very much appreciated the endnotes about each story. ( )
  MargaretArmour | Dec 28, 2013 |
About 2/3 through: all of the stories are rich with historical detail, but the most heartbreaking one so far is "The Gift," a series of letters from a birth mother to the New York Children's Aid Society and from her child's adoptive parents, the Bassetts, to that same agency.

Having skimmed a few reviews (The Guardian, the Boston Globe), I'm very glad I'm listening to the audio version instead of reading it in print; the stories last longer and blossom more fully, whereas in print they are over too quickly. (Not to mention that all of the narrators are excellent.)


Overall, an incredibly strong collection. Each story's title is preceded by its setting (place and year), and each is sparked by a true piece of history, explained in a brief note following the story. The stories are perfect blend of research and imagination, and each one explores a different facet of the theme: people "stray" both geographically and morally. The audio version is excellent, with the Afterword read by the author herself
  JennyArch | Nov 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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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)
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Off your tuck this morning, aren't you?
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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)

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