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3.58  ·  Rating details ·  5,528 ratings  ·  1,026 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 det
Audio CD, 6 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Little, Brown & Company (first published September 5th 2012)
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Jen There are a few stories that either focus on lesbian couples or reference a lesbian relationship, and one trans-gender character.
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3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,528 ratings  ·  1,026 reviews

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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
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 wi ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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
Diane S ☔
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5. I'm a fan of short stories because 1)the writers work just as hard as with a novel but the reader gets all the reward and 2) I tend to read more faster, because "oh, just one more, they're short!"

Unlike Anita Brookner or Maeve Binchy, when you read a book from Donoghue it's different each time--different setting, characters, style, format. Here she takes snippets (truly, just a paragraph or less) of a historical fact and fleshes out a story where the person goes "astray". It could be physi
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,
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
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
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC radio listeners

Starting Sunday 18th November on Radio 4

BBC blurb: Four short stories from Emma Donoghue's new collection Astray. These fact-inspired fictions, about travels to, in and from North America, focus on emigrants, runaways or drifters all gone astray for love or money, under duress or incognito. Emma's compassionate imagination crosses borders of race, law, sex, and sanity bringing the reader through a scattered scrap-book of history.

Man and Boy, read by Richard Lumsden, is a love story between two l
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Connie G
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
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
In bailing on this after the first two stories, I am entertaining two reading-related hypotheses: (1) I just don't do well with most fiction that's based on real-life historical people, and (2) this being the second Donoghue book I've bailed on this month, maybe my deep love for 'Room' was the beginning and the end of things for Emma and me. I am certainly not going to try another of hers for a loooong time.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, short-stories
This book review can also be found on my blog:

This book was a mix of several of my favorite genres- short stories, historical fiction and non-fiction. Every single story was amazing, even if it dealt with difficult subject matter, for the stories were based on real people or events in history. I will definitely be spending some time researching some of the information/sources that the author based her stories off.

*Some Spoliers* Man and Boy: Jumbo the el
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
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
In each of these 14 historically dated stories of people in various stages of transition, ED has taken as her inspiration the often slender documentation of their passage in newpapers and magazine references. A few of the stories that have more extensive documentation seem the most far-fetched, like the first story which tells of the bull elephant Jumbo and his mahoot, and Daddy's girl (Oh, Daddy, was any of it true?) A few of the stories are apocryphal, and these are the most disturbing stories ...more
ripped straight from the local museum newsletter in prescott arizona and the headlines of london 1898 newspapers, very put-together short stories all based on quirky or affecting historical happenings, like jumbo moving to nyc, Tammany hall big wheel who was really a woman in disguise, and child soldiers raping and pillaging in 1776 new jersey. i predict donoghue wins the biggest awards with her next novel.
Ruth Seeley
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jennifer Eckert
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emma Donoghue has not yet failed to enthrall me. This is the fifth of her books I have read, but the first that is a collection of short stories. The stories are all drawn from little historical tidbits, in some cases only a line or two in an old newspaper. I found them fascinating and I loved how she connected them all together with the idea of straying, moving, emigrating. She’s a brilliant contemporary writer.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! Intriguing bits from historical records fleshed out into short stories. The afterwards following each story and the full length one included at the end are just as intriguing.
Roger Brunyate
All We Like Sheep

I started this book in the wonderful sound recording, its stories read by a variety of different performers. My long car trip over, I then read the second half in print. Both forms are marvelous, the recording especially confirming the variety of Donoghue's voice. Five of the fourteen stories are in the first person; two others are told through letters; the remainder vary in style according to their place and period, everything from Puritan New England in 1639 to Ontario in 1967
When I'm reading a history book, especially social history, I often wonder about the lives of those who appear only momentarily. For example, in Empire of Dust: Settling and Abandoning the Prairie Dry Belt David C. Jones recounts the story of a woman settler whose husband died while he was digging a well for their homestead. The nearest water was was several miles away, and she had two small children that she would lock in the house while she walked to fetch water. One day, while she was gone, t ...more
Tracy Hanson
Jul 31, 2013 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
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
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Suffolk bookclub: February 2015 - Astray 33 9 Jun 13, 2017 03:05PM Bo...: Astray: Thoughts. 1 34 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.” 15 likes
“So much of motherhood is acting.” 0 likes
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