Women’s Weird 2 – More Strange Stories By Women 1891 – 1937

Publisher: Handheld Press

Publication Date: 30th October 2020

That cover!

When I saw that Handheld Press were bringing out a follow up collection to Women’s Weird I was so excited! I read and loved the first collection edited by Melissa Edmundson and reviewed it here.

When Handheld Press offered me a copy of Women’s Weird 2 More Strange Stories I snapped their hands off. What a perfect time to scare yourself rigid with some brilliantly spooky and chilling ghost stories with Halloween just around the corner. Of course it’s not just during Halloween season that I enjoy a good ghost story. You lot know I’m a huge fan of anything dark and gothic and this book has both of these things in spades and is the kind of book I’d dip into all year round. I’m always up for a spooky tale!

What I love about both of the editions of Women’s Weird is the amount of research that has gone into finding the perfect stories from brilliant women authors. The book starts out with an introduction from editor Melissa Edmundson who discusses the background of women’s supernatural fiction through the years, the ongoing appeal of the ghost story and what keeps us coming back for more.

This second volume of stories has widened the scope of writers in that instead of just including writers from Britain and the US there are now stories from authors from Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, which serves to expand the possibilities of setting and place. I found this a very fascinating prospect.

There are also biographical notes on each of the authors which are in themselves very interesting reading. it helps to gain a background knowledge of each woman’s personal life, writing life and possible struggles. These can then be taken forward with you and sit in the back of your mind as you read the individual stories.

So what about those stories?….well! They are just as chilling as the first volume and just as likely to make the hairs on your neck stand up!

Within this collection we have the usual take on the age old ghost story. And by that I mean the apparition. Who doesn’t love an actual ghost sighting?! But we also have haunted objects such as The Green Bowl with its exploration of witchcraft with the green bowl at its centre.

There are also strange supernatural creatures appearing in these stories, such as cursed fish and fairies….

The story that sticks in my mind (and isn’t that a true test of a good ghost story) is The Hall Bedroom by Mary E Wilkins Freeman (1905) in which a boarding house landlady tells of the strange happenings within the hall bedroom she rents out. The story then shifts to the diary of a gentleman occupant who documents the strange happenings in the hall bedroom each night which he believes are linked to a mysterious picture on the wall. When the diary entries come to an abrupt halt and the man disappears, what can be made of his writings and what on earth could have happened to him?….

‘This finishes the journal which Mr Wheatcroft left in his hall bedroom. The morning after the last entry he was gone. His friend, Mr Addison, came here, and a search was made. They even tore down the wall behind the picture, and they did find something rather queer for a house that had been used for boarders, where you would think no room would have been let run to waste. They found another room, a long narrow one, the length of the hall bedroom but narrower, hardly more than a closet. There was no window, nor door, and all there was in it was a sheet of paper covered with figures, as it somebody had been doing sums…….’

Even when there is no definitive ‘ghost’ or supernatural object there are stories with a building sense of unease. As in the tale entitled ‘A Dreamer’ by Barbara Baynton (1902) set in the Australian bush where an unnamed protagonist is making a journey through very inhospitable terrain, where nature and the elements become the enemy to battle against.

‘Then again that indefinite fear struck at her. Restlessly she pushed on till she stumbled, and, with hands outstretched, met some object that moved beneath them as she fell. The lightning showed a group of terrified cattle. Tripping and falling, she ran, she knew not where, but keeping her eyes turned towards the cattle. Aimlessly she pushed on, and unconsciously retraced her steps….’

And of course no collection of ghost stories would be complete without the haunted house. There are a few stories surrounding haunted properties in fact. I loved The Red Bungalow by Bithia Mary Croker (1919) set in India where a bungalow has not been rented for some years and the locals have their reasons to keep away….

This is a throughly spooky selection of stories in their own right but to have the biographical background of each of their female authors gave the stories more weight and intrigue in my opinion.

I will be keeping this collection on my Forever Shelf to dip in and out of when I fancy in years to come.

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of the first collection Women’s Weird, Handheld press have kindly given me a discount code for you to use. Use VEIL at the checkout for £2.99 off your copy. The code will be valid until midnight on November 15th. Go on! Treat yourself!

Thank you to Handheld Press for my review copy and for the discount code.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

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