Book review: Astray by Emma Donoghue

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

Reviewer: Stacey, Watford

A collection of short stories about fascinating characters!

Having read Room by the same author, I thought I had an idea of what to expect from Astray.  However Astray is very different.  There are 14 short stories based on true historical stories, with 1 thing in common – someone goes Astray.  The book uses various methods to tell each story, for example one is in the form of letters.

Emma Donoghue has managed to uncover 14 intriguing stories and added her own story telling twist to them.  After each story, she reveals the original idea of where the stories came from.  They are a sad and thought provoking collection of stories.  I like the way they are written and presented, it was easy to read one tale at a time – great bedtime reading!

My favourite tale was Onward, the idea for this book includes some help from Charles Dickens!

I am going to look out for more of Emma’s books having really enjoyed this one and Room.

Reviewer: Charlotte, Deeside

Emma Donoghue’s Astray is a collection of 14 historically based short stories, based around real events of unknown ‘everyday’ historical figures.  Each story finishes with Emma explaining where her inspiration for each story came from, typically newpaper clippings or letters.

Despite not being a fan of either short stories or historical fiction, these stories (for the most part) drew me in.  Although based around a theme – with all the characters being travellers, or lost or out of place in some way – each is independent of the other, travelling across both time and continents.  All are well-written and researched with each being told in it’s own ‘voice’, the author using a variety of styles dependant on the era and the character.  Stories range from the relationship between an elephant and his keeper to a woman working as a prostitute to support her brother and child to a mother leaving her child for a better life but never really letting go.  Some are more moving than others, and as with many short stories I felt a bit short-changed at the end of most of them, wanting to know what happened next. 

This is a great book for those who want to give historical literature a go, or indeed short stories.  I didn’t enjoy every single one, but certainly enough to try out other books by the same author and to give historical fiction another go.  A fascinating insight into different historical periods and into the minds of various characters the author is a creative story teller, and on this basis I would recommend this book.

Published by Pan on  25th October 2012 

R.R.P: Hardback original £14.99 (not yet published)

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