July 16

The Strays by Emily Bitto

I have a confession. Sometimes this blog can be really, really, really HARD work.

I love to read. But, here is the thing. I really only love to read GOOD books. Yeah, duh, I know!

Blogging about books sometimes means you have to read ones you would rather throw with great force in the bin. Even if I am not getting that loving feeling in the first couple of chapters, I have learned to push through the pain because mostly they turn out to be gems.

But boy, I have had a run of some stinkers of late – so stinky have they been that I have closed them at chapter one and hidden them under a pile of other books in the hope they turn good with time. Like wine.

So folks, my reading mo-jo has been at an all time low.

And then, in a most despondent frame of mind, I opened The Strays. And by the end of the first page, I thanked out loud the ‘God of Books’ because a literary miracle had been delivered.

I loved this book. I am restored!

Anyway, I know I have rambled with this review, and I apologise, but someone who does not ramble is author of this beauty, Emily Bitto. This book won the 2015 Stella Prize and deservedly so. It’s a ripper.

In short, the story is about avant-garde painter Evan Trantham, his wife Helena, their three daughters and a group of eccentric, artistic strays they bring to live with them in their large, rambling historic home – a place of dreams surrounded by majestic gardens and romantic hiding places.

One of the strays is Lily, the friend of the middle daughter Eva Trentham. Lily, from a small conservative family herself, falls in love with the Trenthams. She is mesmerized by the mysterious and vibrant folk they invite to live with them and by the wildly, exotic bohemian lifestyle they share.

The Strays is Lily’s story – told from childhood to adulthood – and it is simply wonderful. Please read it. If you are in a funk of any sort, I promise you, a couple of days with The Strays will get you out of it quick smart.

But that is just my 2 cents worth…..