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The Strays
by Emily Bitto


Overview - A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
"Disturbing and magical....with a grace and eloquence." - NPR Books
"Full of lush, mesmerizing detail and keen insight into the easy intimacy between young girls which disappears with adulthood." - The New Yorker
"THE STRAYS is a knowing novel, and beautifully done." - Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Interestings
For readers of Atonement , a hauntingly powerful story about the fierce friendship between three sisters and their friend as they grow up on the outskirts of their parents' wild and bohemian artistic lives.
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    The Strays (Paperback)
    Published: 2018-01-01
    Publisher: Twelve
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More About The Strays by Emily Bitto
 
 
 
Overview
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
"Disturbing and magical....with a grace and eloquence." - NPR Books
"Full of lush, mesmerizing detail and keen insight into the easy intimacy between young girls which disappears with adulthood." - The New Yorker
"THE STRAYS is a knowing novel, and beautifully done." - Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Interestings
For readers of Atonement, a hauntingly powerful story about the fierce friendship between three sisters and their friend as they grow up on the outskirts of their parents' wild and bohemian artistic lives.
On her first day at a new school, Lily befriends Eva and her sisters Beatrice and Heloise, daughters of the infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham. An only child from an unremarkable, working-class family, Lily has never experienced a household like the Trenthams'--a community of like-minded artists Evan and his wife have created, all living and working together to escape the stifling conservatism of 1930's Australia. And Lily has never met anyone like Eva, whose unabashed confidence and worldly knowledge immediately draw her in.
Infatuated by the creative chaos of the Trenthams and the artists who orbit them, Lily aches to fully belong in their world, craving something beyond her own ordinary life. She becomes a fixture in their home, where she and Eva spend their days lounging in the garden, filching cigarettes and wine, and skirting the fringes of the adults' glamorous lives, who create scandalous art during the day and host lavish, debauched parties by night. But as seductive as the artists' utopian vision appears, behind it lies both darkness and dysfunction. And the further the girls are pulled in, the greater the consequences become.
With elegance and vibrancy, THE STRAYS evokes the intense bonds of girlhood friendships, the volatile undercurrents of a damaged family, and the yearning felt by an outsider looking in.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781455537723
  • ISBN-10: 1455537721
  • Publisher: Twelve
  • Publish Date: January 2017
  • Page Count: 256
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-10-03
  • Reviewer: Staff

The lyrical first novel by Australian Bitto observes the life of a bohemian household in 1930s Melbourne from the point of view of one of the strays the artistic Trenthams take in. Narrator Lily, an only child, is eight when she meets Eva, who will be her best friend for years. Bored with her conventional parents, whose idea of a good time is a jigsaw puzzle and a cup of cocoa, she begins to spend weekends with Eva, who lives with her controversial painter father; Evas mother, whose inherited wealth supports the household; Evas mature older sister, Bea; and her troubled younger sister, Heloise. As the years go by, other artists and their partners join the household. Evas fathers status is threatened by a young artist whose works sell better than his, and the parents neglect of the children leads to a horrific outcome. Lily, in 1985 a professor of art history, is a thoughtful and articulate observer, aware of her own emotional investment in the family as well as of the many fractures within its seemingly structure. By placing her so firmly in a comfortable future, however, the core story loses much of its suspense, and too many of the novels crucial events take place offstage, described rather than depicted. (Jan.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Award winners from Down Under

What sort of voices are shaping Australian fiction? Two new novels offer answers. Both are firsts for their authors, both were nominated for awards before they were even published and both are by women.

But here, the passing similarities end: Jane Harper’s The Dry is a contemporary murder mystery set in a rural town, while Emily Bitto’s The Strays takes the reader to Melbourne in the 1930s.

The Dry is one of the most talked-about debuts of the new year. During the worst drought of the century, Federal agent Aaron Falk is called back to Kiewarra, a small town in West Australia, to investigate a murder-suicide. His high school friend Luke Hadler appears to have murdered his wife and son before killing himself: another farmer pushed to the brink by the punishing weather.

As a favor to Hadler’s parents, Falk reluctantly launches an investigation with the help of local policeman Greg Raco. But most of the old residents of Kiewarra aren’t pleased to see Falk, who was run out of town 20 years earlier after being suspected in the death of his classmate Ellie Deacon. As Falk digs into the circumstances around Luke’s death, long-hidden mysteries and animosities begin to surface. 

Harper’s story is tightly plotted and moves briskly, the tension as brittle and incendiary as the dried-out crops on the Kiewarra farms. Falk is a quintessential detective: introverted, reserved and deeply wounded. But it is the beautifully evoked landscape and the portrayal of a gloomy outpost on the edge of a desert that are the stars of the show. 

[Read a Q&A with Jane Harper about The Dry.]

The Strays plunges the reader into a more cosmopolitan environment. On her first day of school, the socially tentative Lily is embraced by Eva, one of three daughters of the famous painter Evan Trentham and his wealthy wife, Helena. Growing up in a conventional Melbourne home in the 1930s, where an exciting evening is hot cocoa and a jigsaw puzzle, Lily is fascinated by the Trenthams’ rambling garden and the creative chaos of their family life, especially after Helena invites a group of fellow artists into the family home. This experiment in communal living, with its lack of rules and lively conversations and parties, seems delightful at first. But the youngest daughter, Heloise, troubled to begin with, becomes unnaturally close to her father’s greatest rival, with disastrous results. 

The novel is told in a series of flashbacks by the adult Lily, who looks back with a bittersweet mixture of fondness and disgust at the benign neglect under which the girls were raised. When Eva comes back to town for a retrospective of her father’s work, Lily begins to wonder why she was drawn to the Trenthams in the first place. 

Bitto loosely based the Trenthams on the Heide Circle, a group of Melbourne artists known for their unconventional lifestyles and named for the Heide communal house in which they lived. But The Strays is more of a psychological study than a historical one: As Lily begins to understand what happened at the Trenthams, she comes to terms with her role as a bystander to her own life. Told in both the breathless voice of an easily infatuated child and the more measured tones of a wiser adult, The Strays is a powerful tale of the consequences of creativity.

 
BAM Customer Reviews