Astray by Emma Donoghue

AstrayAstray by Emma Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette
Review copy received at SIBA

From the publisher:

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.

To say I was excited about this book when it caught my attention at SIBA would be an understatement. I was blown away by Donoghue’s genius with Room and highly anticipated whatever she wrote next. I do tend to enjoy short stories so I was even more looking forward to this one when I heard that’s what this book was.

I have to say, that although I did enjoy Astray, it wasn’t love like I was hoping for. What’s great about this book is that Donoghue’s writing is just as wonderful as I wanted it to be, and I appreciated the fact that all the stories did have a theme in common with one another. I also really enjoyed that each story has some aspect of historical truth to it, and after each story Donoghue enlightens the reader on what that truth is and how she was inspired by a particular person or event in history to write an entire short story around said person or event.

What I didn’t love, and this happens a lot with short story collections, is that I didn’t feel a consistency in how compelling the stories were throughout the book. A few I really liked, a few were just okay, and there were unfortunately one or two stories in this collection that bored me. So while the truth is that I was disappointed in some of the stories in this collection, there were aspects of the overall picture that I did enjoy tremendously. Because of that, I would still recommend reading Astray if you have enjoyed Donoghue’s work in the past and/or if you are a lover of short story collections.

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7 thoughts on “Astray by Emma Donoghue

  1. I have heard several bloggers say that the stories in this book are a bit disjointed. I also think any of Donoghue’s books are tough to look at in comparison with Room (I had this problem with Landing, one of her other novels).

  2. I have a love of everything Donoghue, and I am not sure if I picked this one up or not, but I do definitely want to read this one at some point. It’s saddening to hear that some of the stories don’t really realize their full potential, but I am intrigued that they are all tied in together in some way, and that Donoghue has small note at the end of each story. Very detailed and fair review today. I liked it!!

  3. Oh, bummer. I’m sorry this wasn’t better. Actually, I must say that while I thought Room was very well-written, it was quite jarring to read (well, obviously, but I mean on many levels) because it was so different from what I knew of Donoghue. I love her histfict, and just wasn’t ready to see her in contemporary writing, no matter how well she did it!

  4. I nearly always have this response to short story collections. I typically like at least one or two of the stories, but not a high enough percentage of them to make the book worth it for me. That’s why I mostly stick with novels.

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