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3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,186 Ratings  ·  812 Reviews
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 deta
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published September 5th 2012)
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Wendy Armstrong Is it? Emma D is gay but this isn't lesbian fiction - bit silly listing it as such, Goodreads

Community Reviews

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Vikki VanSickle
Sep 22, 2012 Vikki VanSickle rated it really liked it
I have loved Emma Donoghue since before Room. Her novel Slammerkin remains one of my favourite pieces of historical fiction. I very much enjoyed this collection of historical short stories. I read it in one day (admittedly much of this day was spent on a plane). I was lucky enough to hear the author speak about the book and where the stories came from. Emma described the freedom of zooming in on a single moment in history, rather than creating a whole novel around it. She described herself as a ...more
Tasha Robinson
Jun 27, 2014 Tasha Robinson rated it liked it
The latest anthology from the author of "Room" has an intriguing premise —vignettes and very short stories spun out from old news items and historical records —but the stories Donoghue uncovers are often rich enough to support entire novels, and yet she only elaborates enough to add a few details. In many cases it seems like the real story is starting where she ends her writing, which can make this a frustrating read. Yes, it's interesting that a slave murdered his owner and went on the run with ...more
Dec 21, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it
While I am not typically a fan of short stories, Astray showed me how rich this literary form can be in the hands of an excellent writer. Donoghue's Room was such a good read that I was compelled to give this book a try. I'm so glad I did. (On top of being thankful for the kind librarian who let me exceed my book limit to check it out.)

My main complaint with short stories has been the lack of character development. I often read books to get to know the people between their pages. What I found ou
Oct 07, 2012 Kaarin rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This short story collection by Emma Donoghue examines historic and personal moments that are based on real events. Each story is followed by background information from which the narrative is based. The finished collection jumps eras and locations while Donoghue expertly switches styles of writing (including the exploration of a wide variety of dialects). This results in technically sound and well researched short stories, yet they lack something that taps into a deeper truth or heart. Thus, the ...more
Jan 21, 2013 Sky rated it it was amazing
-Facebook Page --

I received this book through the Goodreads Giveaways, it was one of those books that captivated me from the start and just couldn’t put down at all.

Emma Donoghue has taken real historic stories of people on the run or departed for adventure and love, and turned them into a work of art, almost like behind-the-scenes action. Her imagination takes us for a spin on the untold stories of beloved documented events of everyday people who left an
Feb 18, 2016 Tara rated it liked it
I was surprised and a little sad to see this book in my $1 store. I guess even big name writers can end up in these remainder bins. I quickly saw why when I started reading. Love the cover and the concept (historical short stories based on biographical snippets); each story ends with some information on the character that Donoghue based her story on. However, the early stories did not grip me at all. More like narrative sketches. I almost didn't finish.

Having said that, I'm glad I continued on,
Jun 01, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 p
Jun 13, 2013 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
I did not realize what a phenomenal historical writer Donoghue is. She hits the timeperiod full-on. It’s very David Mitchell-esque in its ability to really capture the voice of the period and not to feel anachronistic in the least bit. And I loved that all the short stories come from real historical events – either actual people or just an event that really happened.

My favorites were: “The Gift” (heartbreaking correspondence about a young mother forced to give up her child due to poverty but al
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Within these fourteen stories, Emma Donoghue traces paths overland and oversea, navigating the different ways we can go astray, journeys of the heart and mind as much as the body. Immigrants and the immigrant story feature prominently, but these stories aren't confined to the immigrant experience. Each one is inspired by a real person, a real story - a clipping from an old paper, a museum piece, an incident in someone else's non-fiction work. From England to Canada to the United States, these st ...more
Aug 19, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
I've never read Donoghue's longer fiction, but I love her stories. In this collection, as in The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits: Stories, she includes detailed story notes. Each piece jumps off from a news clipping or other factual source. It's great fun to try to figure out what the grain of truth is inside each work of fiction. Most of the stories are somewhat bittersweet; after all, who makes the news? A few are from the other type of news, surprising deceptions carried out on an individual ...more
Diane S ☔
Nov 11, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
Old newspaper articles, snippets of interest, places visited, all become fodder for these amazing stories by Donoghue. Usually when reading a book of short stories there are always some that are my favorites, some I don't like and some I just don't get, but in this book I really enjoyed them all. That she explains were she got the idea for the story was an extra bonus and a welcome one. Some of the subjects of her stories are the characters often found on the fringes of our society, or strange c ...more
Nov 03, 2012 Alena rated it really liked it
When I read an author I admire, I often wonder what inspires their stories. Emma Donoghue provides the answers in this wonderful collection of historical fiction shorts about castaways, immigrants and lost souls. Each story contains an afterward referencing her inspiration -- sometimes a newspaper article, sometimes a moment in history or famous court cases.

I appreciated reading the fiction story first, falling enveloped into the tiny worlds Donoghue created in a few short pages, before I knew t
Oct 25, 2012 Kyle rated it really liked it
Normally, I avoid short story collections; however, I had promised myself after reading "Room" that I would read everything that Emma Donoghue publishes. And I'm glad I did. This collection is not to be missed.

The book is broken into three parts: part 1 is stories about people that are about to embark on a journey, part 2 is stories about people that are in transit of a journey, and part 3 is stories about people that are concluding a journey. The stories are historical in that they are based in
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Nov 18, 2012 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I was really excited for this book! Donoghue's "Room" was one of my favorite reads last year so when I heard that Donoghue's Astray was coming out, I knew that I had to read this book. Now short stories are not usually my favorite but because of the writing in "Room," I gave this book a shot. I was definitely pleased and I know that in the future, Emma Donoghue will continue to be on my must read. Now to go back and read her backlist...

This book is all about journeys of all different
Jan 11, 2013 Connie rated it really liked it
This book of interesting short stories has a common theme of a character going astray, sometimes by traveling, and other times by reinventing themselves in a new location. For every story, the author also tells the reader about a historical event or a newspaper clipping, sometimes just a few lines, that inspired her imagination. She would create characters and motives to describe what could have happened in the historical situation. Often these characters are in "no win" situations without much ...more
Jan 23, 2013 Lis rated it it was amazing
Emma Donoghue has a wonderful ability to "take you there" - to make the almost-unimaginable seem real, tangible, actual. I first experienced this with her novel ROOM - so when I saw this book listed, I ordered it, even though I am not always a fan of short stories. (their scope seems so limited! not true in this case.)

All of these stories are based on real events or circumstances in history: sometimes just a line or scrap she found in a newspaper, sometimes a few bits of correspondence - Donoghu
London, ON-based Irish writer Emma Donoghue’s Astray is nothing if not a diverse collection of short stories. Although each story is historical and has some kind of fact such as letters or newspaper articles that serve as a catalyst for Donoghue’s imagination, the times, places, and contexts are about as far-reaching as you could imagine. One, for example, takes place in the seventeenth century Puritan America, whereas another is set in rural Ontario in 1967. I love the idea of taking brief ment ...more
Tracy Hanson
Jul 31, 2013 Tracy Hanson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely one of the best story collections I've read. I sometimes find with story collections there are stories I love, ones I think are "OK", and others I don't particularly like. Not in this case. Every single story is brilliant in its own way. There is enough variety in Astray to keep everyone happy. I particularly liked the last one which is a particularly interesting read considering the choice of characters (shall allow people to read that and judge what I mean). I loved the opening stor ...more
Jan 07, 2013 Chaitra rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I'm a short story fan. In the hands of a capable writer, they are a form that can produce a great impact. Emma Donoghue is a more than competent writer, and the stories in this book are absolutely brilliant.

Astray is about drifters, people who are floating through their lives, arriving to or departing from places. Donoghue herself is an immigrant, so it makes sense that she would pick people who don't belong anywhere to headline her stories. The characters are interesting wit
Nov 03, 2014 Alan rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
short stories based on facts from newspaper cuttings, letters and books that Donoghue has read, centring around immigrants to North America (USA and Canada), stretching from the 17th century to 1969. Broken in to three sections (departure, in transit and arrivals), it includes Jumbo the elephant leaving London Zoo heading for Barnum's circus, a struggling mother-turned-prostitute helped by Charles Dickens to move away and start a new life, a woman who discovers her 'father' was actually a woman. ...more
Mar 07, 2013 Katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt, short-stories
I have to say that I really hated Room, but after making a book discussion guide for it, I had a feeling that I would really enjoy some of Emma Donughue's other work, and I was right.

Astray appealed to my archivist tendencies. She sourced each story from a little snippet of history - a letter, a newspaper clipping, or the mention of a historical figure in a book. While many of the characters were real people, little about them was known. It was completely obvious to me that she delighted in the
Ann Keller
Feb 23, 2013 Ann Keller rated it really liked it
Readers will really enjoy this marvelous collection of uniquely wonderful short stories. These are pages from our past, providing images as strikingly real as nearly freezing to death in the frozen wilderness. We are asked to view the lives of the trainer of Jumbo, the magnificent elephant who claimed the attention of a nation and that of a desperate mother, struggling to locate the daughter she sent west on one of the orphan trains.

Ms. Donoghue writes with compassion and grit, masterfully plung
Ruth Seeley
Jul 12, 2015 Ruth Seeley rated it really liked it
This book of historical documentary fiction - a series of short stories imagining the lives and significant events of real lives - has redeemed Emma Donoghue for me as a writer (wasn't a big fan of Room at all). It's also made me realize she's written a lot more than just the one novel. The brief commentary on each story is quite fascinating and very controlled - nothing self indulgent here.
Apr 09, 2013 Jaci rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't read short stories, generally speaking, but was told this collection wasn't to be missed (thank you, Anne). Each story has something to do with a journey...coming, going...and the reasons people leave where they are and what they're doing for something completely different. These vignettes are beautifully written (and read). Most importantly, each is based on primary source material. Donoghue has taken letters, news articles, journals and filled in the blanks with credible fiction. It ma ...more
First Second Books
I’m typically a little skeptical of short story collections, because short stories are so short, and collections tend to be so varied that frequently at the end, you’re left with the feeling of a hodgepodge.

This collection wasn’t like that at all! In Astray, Emma Donoghue takes episodes throughout US and Canadian history of the past two hundred years and constructs short stories around them, bringing newspaper clippings and orphanage record-books and throw-away lines in history books to life.
Nov 13, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
Fourteen short stories that are distinctively different from each other with the exception that a main character has gone "astray." (Whether they are emigrants, runaways, drifters, lovers, gold miners, or slaves. They also cross borders like: race, law, and sexual identity.) Based on newspapers and other documentation, inspired Donoghue to write these short stories with historical roots (puritan Massachusetts; Revolutionary New Jersey, and antebellum Louisiana). Interesting read!
Caroline Bell
Oct 01, 2014 Caroline Bell rated it liked it
This book was really interesting. I bought it in the airport on our way to Laos for a week-long vacation, primarily because it was small and could fit in my bag, and because I have read Slammerkin and Room by the same author and really liked them both. However, when I bought it, I didn't realize it was a collection of short stories. My major problem with short stories is that they don't often connect enough to convince me that they should all be in the same book, under the same title. I started ...more
Steve Petherbridge
Oct 22, 2014 Steve Petherbridge rated it really liked it
There is no doubting the pedigree and the unique skill set here of Emma Donoghue. Before tackling her award winning "Room", I decided to dip into this book of unique short stories. Unique in the sense that, each short story is based on fact and the principle characters are all on journeys of some sort - emigrants, drifters, runaways and for varied reasons. All are astray. As the blurb says "they cross other borders, too: those of race, law, sex and sanity. they travel for love or money, incognit ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
Donoghue takes historical documents--letters, newspaper articles, court documents--and fleshes them out into short stories. I adore her ability to imagine a full story from sometimes the most scant details.

She is very good at adopting a variety of voices. In this collection (I've read an earlier one, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits), Donoghue brings to life the mind, heart and soul of an elephant trainer, a very earnest prostitute, a pair of gold prospectors, a wild woman of the west, a wom
I have expanded my original review:

I just finished Astray by Emma Donoghue. I have heard a few mixed reviews of it. It is in MHO a very feminist book. Some of the stories left me unimpressed, but others, particularly the final story, were very moving. What was fascinating, and appealing to my academic side, was that Donoghue based each story of some historical event. Sometimes there was very little known about a specific person or event she writes about so she invents. This made the book much mo
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Suffolk bookclub: February 2015 - Astray 32 7 Apr 23, 2015 01:59AM Bo...: Astray: Thoughts. 1 31 Dec 16, 2012 11:02AM  
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Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of ...more
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“Writing stories is my way of scratching that itch: my escape from the claustrophobia of individuality. It lets me, at least for a while, live more than one life, walk more than one path. Reading, of course, can do the same.” 10 likes
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