The strays by Emily Bitto

The Strays by Emily Bitto

Oh why do I do it? I so much prefer novels written for youth but now and then I pop out of my comfort zone. For every book there is a reader! The Strays just wasn’t the book for me. This book is such a downer… all the way through. Please don’t misunderstand me, Australian author, Emily Bitto, is a skilled writer. The voice of the child narrator just did not ring true for me; it seemed more an adult’s analysis of moments in the child’s life. I enjoy ups and downs in books, like a roller-coaster of emotions, but throughout the telling of The Strays I instinctively knew each event was taking me deeper and deeper into depression; I was not provided with enough positive moments in Lily’s life as a fulcrum from which to dive into the sad moments. The Strays draws on a little girl’s observations of a more preferable family to her own. As a single child Lily was infatuated by the impulsive family life of the three daughters of brazen avante-garde painter Evan Trentham. The story begins in 1930s Australia on the fringes of suburban Melbourne. The economic struggles of the Great Depression are illustrated by the struggles of Lily’s family and juxtaposed by the worry free, negligent lifestyle of Trentham’s commune of alternative artists. Through Lily’s eyes we feel her trying to comprehend the positiveness of artistic expression beside this family of self-destructive artists she longed to call family. We see friendships develop and stretched to the finest thread, trust easily given and just as easily broken and the arrogance of a leader toppled into dementia. Ah, how to best express the child’s feelings of these moments? Emily tried but I think the story fell short of this. What did you think?

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