Publisher: Handheld Press
Publication Date: 31st October 2019
If you’re a regular around here or Twitter, you’ll know that I adore a spooky, creepy, dark and gothic tale. When I saw the cover of Women’s Weird – Strange Stories by Women 1890 – 1940 I knew it had the potential to be a piece of me.
Whilst I love a good ghost story, historical or comtemporary, I also love it when the ordinary becomes extraordinary and there is horror to be found in the everyday.
In the past when I’ve been reviewing certain books I’ve had to try to portray a feeling that a book has given me. It can quite often be difficult to harness this feeling into words and I usually fall back on the phrase ‘I love it when something isn’t quite right or feels ‘off’. When I read the introduction by Melissa Edmundson and she used pretty much this exact same phrase, I knew I’d struck gold.
Melissa goes on the explain that ghost stories in the traditional sense of a grey mist or an apparition clanking their chains have been around for centuries and had a particular resurgence in the Victorian era. Whilst this book does indeed have it apparitions and it’s possessed objects it also takes it’s creeping sense of unease from the darkness of everyday human emotions and perhaps most chillingly of all the theme of patriarchy running through the core of the majority of these stories.
I was even more excited when I read that the stories of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Edith Wharton featured in the collection. I read and loved The Yellow Wallpaper by Perkins Gilman and I have a collection of ghost stories by Edith Wharton on my short story shelf.
I don’t like to look into all of the stories too closely when reviewing a short story collection, but rather just give you a taste of some of my favourites. Stories which stand out in the forefront of my mind are the first story The Weird Of The Walfords by Louisa Baldwin in which a man detroys the bed which has been in his family for generations. A bed in which his ancestors before him have all seen out their last days. He doesn’t wish to be swept up in this macabre tradition and so eradicates the death bed from his life and shuts up the room it used to lie in. However, when he marries and his new wife takes an interest in the locked up room and its contents, the man discovers that you can’t always outrun an overriding force.
I also really enjoyed Kerfol by Edith Wharton in which the main ghostly focus is the presence of spectral dogs. Edith Wharton is such a great writer, she absolutely nails a spooky atmosphere and is fabulous at creating an certain energy which lures you in and makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise!
The middle section of this book really stood out to me as some absolutely superb quirky and chilling tales that feel like absolute classics with a definite twist. Hodge by Elinor Mordaunt where a brother and sister almost will into life a neanderthal man. At first he is compliant and subserviant but soon takes a darker turn when he becomes obsessed with the sister. I adored this story so much, the idea that this sibling pairing were seeing the same unbelievable being and reacting to him in their differing ways. In The Haunted Saucepan by Margery Lawrence we discover the story of precisely that!……a haunted saucepan! When the male protagonist moves into a flat which has seen previous tenants leave quickly in mysterious circumstances (isn’t that always a brilliant premise for a spooky story!).
What is very refreshing about this collection is that there are many and varied themes that are sure to send a chilling sense of uneasiness through your veins. Whether you’re a staunch fan of the traditional ghost story or prefer something a little more off the wall and ‘weird’, then there will be a story in here that will grab you. There are ‘ghosts’ in the age old sense of the word but there are also possessed objects, everyday objects that could be found in any home (bed, saucepan!). There are ghostly animals, shadows, feelings of dread and terror.
This collection fills a gap between gothic ghost story and out and out fantastical weird fiction. I also love the fact that these amazing stories came from the brains of such brilliant female writers. I enjoy the writing style of the early 20’s and 30’s, the language, the interplay between characters, the sense of time. A couple of the stories even put me in mind of Daphne Du Maurier’s writing style, particularly her short stories (Don’t Look Now And Other Stories, brilliant collection!).
This book is just perfect for the chilly, dark Autumn/Winter evenings. You can snuggle up under a blanket and pick and choose any story you like to give you chills. This book can be kept and returned to time and again each time the spooky season rolls around.
Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx