The 2016 University of Canberra Book of the Year is The Strays, by Emily Bitto

Winner of the Stella Prize in 2015, The Strays is Emily Bitto’s first novel.

Set in Melbourne in the 1930s, the novel centres around Lily who makes friends with Eva, one of the daughters of the infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham on her first day of school. Evan and his wife are trying to escape the stuffy lifestyle of Australia in the 1930’s by inviting other like-minded artists to live and work with them.

Lily an only child is absolutely besotted by the world of these artists and wishes she could be part of this fascinating makeshift family. She finds it difficult to understand the family dynamics between siblings and desperately wants to be part of the family.  Finally she achieves her dream when circumstances at home allow her to move in and live with the Trenthams, a decision she will regret as she reaches adulthood.

As years goes by Lily realises that the children of Evan Trentham and his wife Helena always come second to their art and are often neglected both emotionally and physically. Eventually the children will pay the debt owing, as will Lily.

If you would like to read the book but are not eligible for a free copy, you can borrow one of the Library’s lending copies which will be available soon.


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