by Emma Donoghue
Hardcover- N/A

The fascinating characters that roam across the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, ...

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  "Astray, Emma Donoghue" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 08/15/13

The author has written this book of short stories about people who are yearning for something, and in their quest they have lost their way. Some struggle to find their way back, some never do. Based on the extensive research of actual documents, she has crafted a narrative consisting of anecdotal tales based on real historic events, using both authentic and fictional characters.
The creativity and writing skill of this author is always apparent. To be able to write so many short stories with so many different themes, even if based on past events, is remarkable, and it is for that reason that I gave it four stars. However, I found that there were simply too many of these stories included in this short little book of barely 300 pages, to engage me fully. To be fair, perhaps if I had read it more slowly, rather than listening to it in one day, I would have appreciated each individual story and message far more. Also, I found that not all of the different readers on this audio were able to engage my ear well enough to capture my interest completely.
After each story, the author reveals the documents and history that gave birth to the previous tale. Then, in the afterword, the author describes and explains her reasons for writing each particular story. Without her explanation, I am not sure I would have totally understood all of the concepts she covered, among them, interracial relationships, widowhood, religion, marriage, murder, shame, dishonesty, lying, illegitimacy, poverty, criminality, dementia, slavery, matrimony, orphans, animal keepers, rape, desire, war and secrets. There were stories about émigrés, escaping slaves, grave robbers, counterfeiters, animal keepers, rapists, etc. The abundance of themes was a bit much for me and that is why, absent her great skill, I would only have given the book three stars, instead of the four I did give it. Something was missing for me in character development as well as storyline. I longed for more description and detail so that I could find a message from the narrative without the help of the afterword provided.
The common theme in each story is a struggling soul engaged in an effort to discover secrets, to escape from current circumstances by any means available, to succeed in the face of danger, to have impossible dreams, but not always of the valiant kind.
Each had a burning desire for something, but I never felt completely drawn to any of them. I never felt I could emotionally identify with the issues of any of the characters. There were just too many scenarios, too many subjects for me to truly get interested in any one in particular, but overall, the book is what I would call a good fast read.

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