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Astray Hardcover – 25 Oct 2012
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‘Emma Donoghue is one of the great literary ventriloquists of our time. Her imagination is kaleidoscopic. She steps borders and boundaries with great ease and style. In her hands the centuries dissolve, and then they crystallise back again into powerful words on the page.’
‘Time and again, Emma Donoghue writes books that are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and Astray is no exception. There is such a deep and compassionate imagination at work in every story in this collection that Astray feels almost like an act of clairvoyance.’ Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto
‘Emma Donoghue is one of the great literary ventriloquists of our time. Her imagination is kaleidoscopic. She steps borders and boundaries with great ease and style. In her hands the centuries dissolve, and then they crystallize back again into powerful words on the page.’ Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
‘Emma Donoghue writes books that are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and Astray is no exception. There is such a deep and compassionate imagination at work in every story in this collection that Astray feels almost like an act of clairvoyance.’ Ann Patchett, Orange prize-winning author of Bel CantoSee all Product description
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In the story 'Onward' Caroline, a young woman living in Victorian London, is forced into a life of prostitution when she can find no other way to support her illegitimate child and her younger brother, Fred. When Fred suggests they emigrate and make a fresh start, Caroline wonders whether "when you change countries, perhaps your old self stays fixed to your back, like a turtle's shell". In order to raise money for their passage, Caroline will need to reveal her life story to a famous author who will pay her for it, but will Caroline decide that it is preferable to sell her story or her body? In 'The Gift', a particularly heart-wrenching story, we meet a young widow living in Jersey City, USA, in 1877 who, through lack of money, takes the very difficult decision to put her baby daughter into the care of the Children's' Aid Society. When the woman's situation improves, she writes letters trying to have her daughter returned to her, but is she successful in her mission to be reunited with her own flesh and blood?
In the tenderly portrayed 'Counting the Days' we read about Jane and Henry Johnson, victims of the Irish potato famine, who leave Ireland separately for America and count the days until they are reunited. When Jane arrives in the States will she find a prosperous husband ... or no husband at all? And in the unusual story 'Daddy's Girl' we meet Imelda Hall, a young woman who receives a terrible shock when her father dies and his real identity is revealed. There is a lot more to uncover in the remaining stories in this collection, but I shall leave those for prospective readers to discover - except to say that 'The Hunt' which was short-listed for The Times Short Story Award makes for rather disturbing reading.
Full of interesting and unusual characters, these stories are all the more intriguing for being based on real people and real situations and Emma Donoghue has included a helpful postscript for each story informing the reader of her sources and, where possible, of what happens to her characters after her tale about them ends, so that you are not left 'up in the air' wondering what happened next. I found this an absorbing, fascinating and poignant collection of stories which will remain on my bookshelves to be re-experienced at a later date, but not until other members in my family have finished with it - and that's fine because these stories are too good to keep to yourself.