By Emily Bitto
In The Strays, Evan Trentham is the wild child of the Melbourne art world of the 1930s. He and his captivating wife, Helena, attempt to carve out their own small niche, to escape the stifling conservatism they see around them, by gathering together other like-minded artists. They create a utopian circle within their family home, offering these young artists a place to live and work, and the mixed benefits of being associated with the infamous Evan. At the periphery of this circle is Lily Struthers, the best friend of Evan and Helena’s daughter Eva. Lily is infatuated by the world she bears witness to, and longs to be part of this enthralling makeshift family. As Lily observes years later, looking back on events that she still carries painfully within her, the story of this groundbreaking circle involved the same themes as Evan Trentham’s art: Faustian bargains and terrible recompense; spectacular fortunes and falls from grace. Yet it was not Evan, nor the other artists he gathered around him, but his own daughters, who paid the debt that was owing.
- All thought it was very well written but some found the theme of underage relationships very challenging. The garden seems to be a metaphor for the story and characters. Sometimes Idyllic, sometimes almost sounding like ‘the Garden of Eden’ mirroring the children’s playground and fun times, but also overgrown and neglected which happened to the children.
- The perspective of looking back as an adult and remembering the growing experiences and exciting times.
- The plot was captivating and kept everyone reading to the end.
Read By: The Second Tuesday Book Group