Tsukiko Omachi was living a life of single ordinariness. Thirty seven, an office worker in Tokyo, she stops semi-regularly at a little bar near the railway station. And one evening meets Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto. Her old high school teacher. Sensei.’That evening we drank five bottles of sake between us. Sensei…
‘’Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.’’
Life has not been good for 15-year-old Marnie and her 12-year-old sister Nelly. Their parents Gene and Izzy are self-absorbed junkies living in squalor in a rough Glasgow public housing estate. Gene, when he’s not high, has a vicious streak and has to be kept from Marnie by a lock on the door. Unhinged, Izzy is unknowing or uncaring. Nelly, who is a “wee bit touched, not retarded or anything, just different’’ wants nothing more than a normal family in whatever guise it presents itself.
When Gene dies (under slightly ambiguous circumstances) Izzy hangs herself in the garden shed while her two daughters sleep. To Marnie, it’s no real loss: ”They were never there for us … at least now we know where they are.’’
Marnie isn’t your usual drop kick kid. Despite her rebellious attitude
It’s a silly title for a book. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. Or rather, it did. Although highly recommended, I put off reading Y, the debut novel by Marjorie Celona, because of that title. It smacked of gimmickry. The first page didn’t really help much either. That was pretty silly…
A floor above one of my favourite Sydney sushi restaurants is the Kinokuniya bookstore which takes out virtually the whole of the top level of the building. Like others in the 80-strong international chain, it is bright, airy and absolutely vast. As well as acres of novels and sumptuous coffee table…
Astray is a collection of 14 stories by Emma Donoghue the Irish-born author and historian who is probably most famous for her internationally-acclaimed novel, The Room, which unfolds through the voice of a five-year-old boy whose only world has been the room where he and his mother are kept prisoner.
The Room was inspired by the case of the Austrian Joseph Fritzel who fathered seven children from his own daughter, and Donoghue has also utilised what she called “hybrid faction” in other successful work including The Sealed Letter.
Astray is inspired by, and loosely based on, archival records of real events and people, dating back to the early 1660s, although the intimate detail that makes this such a rich collection is Donaghue’s. She provides the voice behind the yellowing newspaper cutting or entry in a dusty register of births and deaths.