Title: Almost Famous Women
Writer: Megan Mayhew Bergman
Publishing House: Scribner
Date of Publication: January 6th 2015
Rating: 2 stars
There is currently a plethora of books that aim to bring women whose stories deserve to be more widely known to surface. If you ask me, I think it was about time. However, what makes me apprehensive is the fact that more doesn’t necessarily mean better and when something becomes a ‘’fashion’’, there is always the danger of losing quality and cohesion. This is what I found in this collection. An honest effort that severely lacked in execution and quality. The writer aimed to bring into focus women whose artistic, adventurous life deserves to be told. Instead of resorting to dry biographies, she chose to emphasize their psychology and personality through short stories inspired by their life and work. Unfortunately, I found most of them to be unsatisfying.
The Pretty, Grown Together Children: A strange and strangely haunting story about conjoined twins. Fascinating.
The Siege at Whale Cay: This one was an utter struggle. I didn’t like Joe or her views on life. I don’t think that being bossy and corrupt makes you heroic or worthy. Sorry.
Norma Milley’s Film Noir Period: A house full of artistic women. A story about ambition, art, sisterhood, and understanding.
Romaine Remains: An elderly painter residing in a villa in Italy with a Spanish young man as her sole companion. A moving, dark story.
Hazel Eaton and the Wall of Death: A woman who defies death and forgets her daughter in the process. I failed to see how this story enhanced her character.
The Autobiography of Allegra Byron: A moving story about Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter and the woman who took her under her wings, fighting her own demons. Perhaps the best moment in the collection.
Expression Theory: This is so bad it isn’t even worth commenting on…
Saving Butterfly McQueen: A mixture of religion, Gone With the Wind, medicine and the word Saving in the title. In the immortal words of Michael Ballack, I am not impressed…
Who Killed Dolly Wilde: An interesting story about an alluring writer in an atmosphere full of French decadence.
A High Grade Bitch Sits Down For Lunch: The craving for adventure in beautiful Kenya. I really wanted this story to be longer.
The Internees: A short, moving account from one of the survivors of Bergen-Belsen. However, I don’t think that this collection is the proper place for Holocaust victims to be included in. The way I see it, it is disrespectful to find them alongside opium lovers and glorified sex-crazed socialites.
The Lottery, Redux: A cover story of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Not particularly successful, in my opinion.
Hell-Driving Women: Jazz atmosphere in a story with sociopolitical implications.
The main problem I had with this collection was the unnecessary emphasis on sex through quite a few crude descriptions. In my opinion, most of the women described are interesting and powerful without having to be portrayed as sex-predators. The writer significantly undermined their personalities by this choice. All in all, this collection was an extremely mixed bag. There were a few beautiful moments but most of the women were turned into the stereotypes we all try to avoid. While the writing had its moments of beauty, very few stories resonated with me. Hence the 2 stars.