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the strays
May 2014
RRP: $24.99
ISBN: 9781922213211
210 x 135 mm

The Strays

A novel

by Emily Bitto

On her first day at a new school, Lily befriends one of the daughters of infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham. He and his wife are trying to escape the stifling conservatism of 1930s Australia by inviting other like-minded artists to live and work at their family home. Lily becomes infatuated with this wild, makeshift family and longs to truly be a part of it.

As the years pass, Lily observes the way the lives of these artists come to reflect the same themes as their art: Faustian bargains and spectacular falls from grace. Yet it’s not Evan, but his own daughters, who pay the price for his radicalism.

The Strays is an engrossing story of ambition, sacrifice and compromised loyalties from an exciting new talent.


‘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

‘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 4.5 stars

‘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

‘Emily Bitto has written a very stylish and enjoyable debut novel.’

—The Sunday Mail

The Strays is a marvellously accomplished and assured debut, announcing a major new talent. Rich in atmosphere and beautifully observed.’

—Caroline Baum, Booktopia

‘With a skilful use of perspective and memory, and a dual adult–child point of view, Bitto reaches far beyond the well-documented narratives and myths of the Heide players to widen and enrich the notion of the artist as mad or bad or eccentric.’

—Kristina Olsson, Readings Monthly

The Strays picked as a top book of 2014:



The Age

The Sydney Morning Herald

The Canberra Times



emily bitto 1

Emily Bitto

Emily Bitto has a Masters in Literary Studies and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne, where she is also a sessional teacher and supervisor in the creative writing program. The manuscript of her debut novel, The Strays, was shortlisted
for the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.