Winner of Australia's 2015 Stella Prize. For readers of Atonement, a powerful and haunting story of three sisters and their friend who grow up on the outskirts of their parents' glamorous bohemian lifestyle.
On her first day at a new school, Lily befriends one of the daughters of infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham. Lily has never experienced anything like the Trenthams' home, where Evan and his wife have created a wild, makeshift family of like-minded artists, all living and working together to escape the stifling conservatism of 1930's Australia. An only child accustomed to loneliness, Lily soon becomes infatuated with the creative chaos of the Trenthams and aches to fully belong.
Despite the Trenthams' glamorous allure, the artists' real lives are shaped by dire Faustian bargains and spectacular falls from grace. As the girls find themselves drawn closer to the white-hot flame of creativity, emotions and art collide with explosive consequences - and Evan's own daughters may be forced to pay a dangerous price for his choices.
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"Starred Review. A haunting evocation of life-changing friendship... The Strays is a marvel of setting and characterization, re-creating a time of artistic revolution and personal revelation. Memorable and moving, this is a novel not to be missed." - Booklist
"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 novel's crucial events take place offstage, described rather than depicted." - Publishers Weekly
"Bitto adapts a leisurely storytelling pace that matches the period as she explores with quiet passion both the cost of creative life on family and the definition of family itself." - Kirkus
"The Strays is like a gemstone: polished and multifaceted, reflecting illuminations back to the reader and holding rich colour in its depths."- Stella Prize Judges' Report
"Treating this novel as a historical fiction risks missing some of its breadth of insight.The Strays is an eloquent portrayal of the damage caused by self-absorption as well as a moving study of isolation." - The Saturday Age (Australia)
"You could lift out any sentence in The Strays and admire the sheer artistry of its melody and composition. What's especially wonderful about Bitto's literary novel is the story never feels weighed down by style. It's an immensely pleasurable read." - Bookseller + Publisher (Australia)
"Bitto writes beautifully, her prose supple and satisfying, her insights and extended metaphors worth lingering over. Of particular note are her characters' perceptive comments on art and her visceral understanding of the only child's ever-unrequited hunger for inclusion - an inclusion that always falls short of the familial, however vexed or careless that familial connection may appear." - The Adelaide Advertiser (Australia)
"Emily Bitto has written a very stylish and enjoyable debut novel." - The Sunday Mail(Australia)
"The Strays is a marvellously accomplished and assured debut, announcing a major new talent. Rich in atmosphere and beautifully observed." - Booktopia (Australia)
"Emily Bitto writes so well about art, childhood, infatuation, loneliness - you name it. The Strays is a knowing novel, and beautifully done." - Meg Wolitzer, New York Timesbestselling author of The Interestings
"Riveting, captivating, with a sense of foreboding threaded throughout. The Strays is such a daring look at art and love and family that you'll want to clear your calendar: you'll be reading it in a day." - Whitney Otto, New York Times bestselling author of How to Make an American Quilt and Eight Girls Taking Pictures
"Reading this novel, I realized that this is the kind of book I love best: the young girl narrating a story she feels she cannot understand. Because of the precision of the prose, however, the reader perfectly understands the folly of the adult world and the perilous life the children must somehow try to survive. Thank you to Emily Bitto!" - Jane Hamilton, New York Times bestselling author of The Excellent Lombards
"Emily Bitto's The Strays is a powerful and precisely imagined journey into the lives of two girls growing up in the avant-garde artistic milieu of post-war Australia. Like Elena Ferrante in her Neapolitan novels, Bitto entices and enthralls, probing the pathos of the heart and the unpredictable volatility of friendships and family. But above all, it is the writing itself that delights the reader: vivid, tactile, perfectly wrought, this is prose that weaves a lasting spell." - Paul Kane, award-winning author of Welcome Light
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Emily Bitto has a Masters in Literary Studies and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she also co-owns the Carlton wine bar, Heartattack and Vine.
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