Saturday, December 29, 2012

Astray by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue has drawn on assorted historical documents to create the 14 character-based short stories collected in Astray. Many have been previously published elsewhere, but they are all thematically linked by the concept of straying. As Donoghue explains in her afterword, "Straying has always had a moral meaning as well as a geographical one, and the two are connected. If your ethical compass is formed by the place you grow up, which way will its needle swing when you're far from home?"

Most of the tales take place in the 19th century, but the earliest is set in 1639 in Cape Cod, and the most recent in 1901 in New York City. Five of the stories wander into queer territory. Donoghue includes her source for each one, giving insight into the tantalizing hold even the briefest of mentions can have on her imagination. Wonderfully vivid scenarios showcase Donoghue's perceptive portrayals of people from all walks of life. Losing myself within Astray was a pleasure.

Readalike: The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys.

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