Audiobook Review: Astray

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: AstrayAstray by Emma Donoghue
Narrator: Dion Graham, James Langton, Khristine Hvam, Robert Petkoff, Suzanne Toren
Length: 6 hrs, 31 mins
Published by Hachette Audio on October 30, 2012
Genres: Historical, Short Stories
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

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 detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts to revolutionary New Jersey, antebellum Louisiana to the Toronto highway, lighting up four centuries of wanderings that have profound echoes in the present. Astray offers us a surprising and moving history for restless times.

Short story collections have never been my favorite reading, because they tend to be so uneven. A few stories will really move the reader, leaving the reader wishing for so more of them. Others bore or frustrate, an experience to be got through. With this being the case, keeping my attention and interest up throughout is difficult. On audio, I think this may have been exacerbated, because, without an excellent narrator, they can provoke in the reader a tendency to zone out.

These stories vary in subject matter, but all confront a sense of not belonging, of being astray in one sense or another. These historical tales might be appreciated by some for their own merit, and I didn’t dislike them, but, for me, the best part of Astray were hearing the historical inspirations for Donoghue’s stories. Every single story in this collection is based upon true historical incidents, some quite directly and others more loosely. At the end of each story, a narrator would inform the reader of these historical incidents, and I always looked forward to that, as most of the stories included quite shocking material.

Though a couple of the stories did hold more appeal for me than others, for the most part, I had trouble focusing and didn’t get too much from them. Partly, this stems from a lack of characterization which can plague the shorter forms of writing. Also, some of the narrators really did not sit well with me. One in particular made me want to claw my ears out to put an end to her perky, know-it-all voice speaking with terrible imitations of accents.

Donoghue’s afterward again relates the historical aspects of the stories, as well as going into greater detail on her thought process in crafting these stories. She narrated this herself, and both the content and her brogue are lovely. Getting a window into her interpretations of the stories singly and collectively really made for an interesting and unique reading experience.

If you love Donoghue’s writing, Astray will be a must-read for you, if only to get a view into the workings of her brain. The stories themselves did not hold any special charm for me, but might have done more so had I read a print copy rather than listening to them.

12 responses to “Audiobook Review: Astray”

  1. Nori says:

    I didn’t know that this even existed. I loved Room and I love short stories. So, I most likely will need to get this one…Though, I totally agree that with books of short stories that thee tend to be the stories that move you and then the stories you could live without…It’s kind of like shopping at TJ Max, you have to dig a little to find the perfect fit.

  2. That’s one of the reasons I stay away from audiobooks for the most part – if the voice of the narrator is uncomfortable, I can’t enjoy the story at all.

    And I usually stay away from anthologies, too. I’m not one for short stories, and I can’t really read one after another like that. Too often there will only be 1-3 good stories, and the rest will not speak to me at all.

    • Christina says:

      True. Audio makes or breaks a book and there’s not really any in between.

      Precisely. I keep thinking I want to branch out into short fiction, and then I try it and wonder WHY.

  3. I haven’t read Room but I have had it recommended to me A LOT. I need to read it. I’m not a fan of historical fiction nor am I a fan of short stories. I’m with you that it all feels really uneven, some you love and some make you want to gouge your eyes out!

  4. Lilian says:

    Where did this one come from? I don’t recall seeing it in any On My New Arrivals Shelf…
    This was on my radar since I found out about it in the summer, and I kinda liked Room. I don’t know if I can say I like her writing because of it because Room was written in a five-year old perspective. I know what you mean with short stories, I don’t mind memoirs though.

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

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