Astray
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Astray

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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  3,146 ratings  ·  656 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...more
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2012)
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Vikki VanSickle
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
Shannon
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...more
Tasha Robinson
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
Jim
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...more
Sky
-Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Thebooknatics --

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...more
Sarah
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
Kyle
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...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
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...more
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
Kaarin
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
Lis
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...more
Alena
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...more
Tracy Hanson
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
Ann Keller
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...more
Alise Wascom
This book is rich in historical detail, yes, but also in imagination. Donoghue delivers fourteen stories of travelers, spanning four centuries and two countries, all based in historical evidence, however anecdotal. The real treat are the afterwards, a sneak peek into the mind of a brilliant writer at the point of inspiration. Donoghue is not a writer that can be pigeon-holed into an genre or style but fans of ROOM will not be disappointed by this beautiful, entertaining collection.

"[Writing] le...more
Diane S.
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
Jaci
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.
Carol
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!
Bonnie
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...more
Karen
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...more
Caseythecanadianlesbrarian
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
Matthew Lippart
This is a collection of short stories around a few themes (loss, abandonment, etc etc) which are all pretty well summed up by the main title. These are considered "historical" I suppose, because they are based on actual people, letters, places, and so forth. I thought the stories were pretty good. Like most collections, you have a pretty wide range here- my favorite being the one about the two young men panning for gold. So if you are into period pieces, you might wanna check this out.

I did have...more
Sandra
This story collection has had a powerful effect upon me and has left a residue such as I have not experienced previously after short story collections.

The epigraph:
Tell us underneath what skies,
Upon what coasts of earth we have been cast;
We wander, ignorant of men and places,
And driven by the wind and the vast waves.
Virgil, The Aeneid,
translated by Allen Mandelbaum (1971)
Contents
Departures 1
Man and Boy 5
Onward 23
The Widow's Cruse 43
Last Supper at Brown's 65

In Transit 73
Counting t...more
meeners
like emma donoghue's earlier collection the woman who gave birth to rabbits, astray spins stray headlines and fragments of historical documents into vignettes that are sometimes contemplative, sometimes startling, and sometimes quite beautiful. i hesitate to call these stories "historical fiction," because the draw is really in the tension between the historical and the fictional, the known and the speculative.

part of me, too, resists the idea that fiction is somehow more worthy of our (literary...more
Chaitra
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...more
Amy
It is a rare short story that can captivate the reader, present fully developed characters that maintain the reader’s interest, and present a completely satisfying story arch in a limited amount of pages; yet Emma Donoghue’s latest collection of stories, Astray, manages to do just that in all fourteen stories. In each of the stories, the characters have all gone astray; from the homes that they have always known, from the rules of society, from convention and even from the law. Donoghue also tak...more
Jenny
About 2/3 through: all of the stories are rich with historical detail, but the most heartbreaking one so far is "The Gift," a series of letters from a birth mother to the New York Children's Aid Society and from her child's adoptive parents, the Bassetts, to that same agency.

Having skimmed a few reviews (The Guardian, the Boston Globe), I'm very glad I'm listening to the audio version instead of reading it in print; the stories last longer and blossom more fully, whereas in print they are over t...more
Katie
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...more
Dawn
This collection of short stories by Emma Donoghue (of "Room" fame) has a very cool concept but also has it's share of hits and misses. The stories all possess a shared theme of migration, either geographical or moral (sometimes both). After each short story is the newspaper article or research that inspired the story. It is the fleshed out story that we always want to know when reading some little blurb in the paper. The majority of the stories take place before 1900 and are based in historical...more
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AfterEllen.com Bo...: Astray: Thoughts. 1 30 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
More about Emma Donoghue...
Room Slammerkin Frog Music Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins The Sealed Letter

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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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