The Strays by Emily Bitto: A Review

I believe in supporting emerging literary voices, so in 2016, I vowed to read more debut novels. I read many, and some were my favorite books of the year. Emily Bitto’s The Strays was one such book. I read the book in the Fall of 2016, but The Strays only became available to readers in the U.S. yesterday, January 3, 2017 (hence, I didn’t include it in my 2016 list of books).

the-straysIn 2015, debut novelist, Emily Bitto, received the Stella Award, a book award that recognizes Australian women writers of fiction and nonfiction and the second major literary award in Australia.

Her debut, The Strays, is story of friendship, an avant-garde artists’ colony, a band of bohemian artists, and secrets that bind or break relationships. The novel is framed as a memoir. In 1985, Lily reflects on one of her most influential childhood friendships and her experiences living with the eccentric Trentham family in the 1930s.

Lily and Eva meet  when they are eight years old, though they come from very different worlds. Lily, a child of middle-class suburban parents, lives a relatively “normal” and sedate life, a life filled with routine and order. Eva, the child of two wealthy, bohemian parents lives in a world of beauty, chaos, and passion. For Lily, her attraction to  Eva and the Trentham family is immediate and profound. It is this attraction that Lily describes in the opening of the book:  Continue reading