Audie Award Nominee, Short Stories/Collections, 2013
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.
©2012 Emma Donoghue (P)2012 Hachette Audio
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. C.S. Lewis
This is a fine and unique collection of historical fiction pieces, with a postscript behind each story explaining the origin of the characters and the situation.
I will just list the strengths of this collection of stories rather than an actual review
1) Emma Donoghue is a writter that manages to capture interesting literary themes in very accesible readable/page turning stories
2) The time and place of the stories are clearly set at the beginging so the reader is not spending time figuring what period a story is taking place
3) All/most of these stories are based on actual events. Donoghue is a real good researcher and historical writer
4) All the stories have a general theme of people leaving or finding a physical/mental place which ties the stories together well.
A definitie reccomendation
'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of fourteen short stories/vignettes loosely based on snippets from letters, newspaper articles, footnotes, and other historical documents.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.
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