15 Apr Review – The Strays of Paris
Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose latest novel The Strays of Paris is hard to pin down genre-wise. An animal adventure story, it reads like a fable and is perfect for readers aged eleven and over.
Paras is a spirited young racehorse who in a moment of curiosity leaves the confines of her stables on the outskirts of the city. She meets Frida, a stray dog who is lonely since the death of her owner, a homeless man, and they become friends. Together they set off on their adventures hooking up with more waifs and strays along the way, two ducks and a crow and together they tell their stories, and discuss their ideas of ownership and freedom.
They roam the city’s lush green spaces and life is enjoyable for a time. But everything changes when Paras meets an eight year old boy, Étienne, who cares for his nearly one hundred year old grandmother in a large ivy covered house. As the old lady is nearly blind, she doesn’t notice when Étienne invites the crew into their home, and it becomes a story about support. Can the animals protect a friendless human child who has somehow eluded the French social services, and will the boy be their saviour? As Raoul the Raven says, “Life is always a chancy business.”
This is a charming and observant short novel, about what happens when we open our eyes to the unexpected. It makes us consider nature and how we live with and care for animals, as well as how as humans we communicate with each other; plus it transports us out of lockdown and far away to the streets of one of the most magical cities in the world.
Thank you so much to Dymphna Flynn for writing this review for us. Dymphna is a books journalist and audio producer. She blogs about books at https://www.instagram.com/dymphnaflynn/