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Stride into the Past with Emma Donoghue's Astray

posted Nov 4, 2012, 8:01 AM by Holloway McCandless   [ updated Nov 4, 2012, 8:03 AM ]

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Emma Donoghue's Astray is the perfect book for someone who is too tired to read long passages at bedtime or by a cozy fire (hmmm, how would I know this?). Astray's 14 tight, self-contained stories based on historic incidents and personages satisfies in short stints. [That's an overly-sibilant sentence, but no time to fix it now.--hmcc] Most of the stories take place in the 1800s but there's one set in Puritan New England and another as recent as mid-20th century Canada.

Donoghue gets you quickly into the time and place of the protagonist, cuts to their dramatic event, and resolves their fate in 15 pages or fewer. It sounds brusque but it feels complete, more nugget than flake. You finish the stories feeling educated and entertained, and the short research summaries that follow answer any questions you might have about how much of the story is factual.

Astray would be an excellent gift book for a teacher, or for anyone who likes historical fiction that does not play loose with the past.

To read more, and learn which story features a "bro-pachymance," please see my review of Astray for Shelf Awareness.