Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman
Almost Famous Women. Finished 2-8-17, rating 4.5/5, short stories, 236 pages, pub. 2015
The fascinating lives of the characters in Almost Famous Women have mostly been forgotten, but their stories are burning to be told. Now Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, resurrects these women, lets them live in the reader’s imagination, so we can explore their difficult choices. Nearly every story in this dazzling collection is based on a woman who attained some celebrity—she raced speed boats or was a conjoined twin in show business; a reclusive painter of renown; a member of the first all-female, integrated swing band. We see Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s troubled niece, Dolly; West With the Night author Beryl Markham; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister, Norma. These extraordinary stories travel the world, explore the past (and delve into the future), and portray fiercely independent women defined by their acts of bravery, creative impulses, and sometimes reckless decisions. from Goodreads
I don’t read short stories. I like big books where I can really get to know a character and spend time with a story that has the time to develop and take a few twists and turns. But for book group this month we read Almost Famous Women and I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, I was the only one since the other seven ladies didn’t care for it as a whole.
Each story started with a picture of the woman so that you could have a visual when you were reading and that was important for the first story.
Violet and Daisy Hilton were joined at the hip, literally. This one was both disturbing and fascinating. People that you know showed up in the stories, Marlene Dietrich, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lord Byron, Butterfly McQueen, Beryl Markham…but like the title says, most of the women in the book were almost famous. I liked some more than others but particularly liked the one about Joe Carstairs and her private island, Romaine Brooks and her very creepy nurse, and Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter broke my heart. I liked the mix of known and unknown and it made me check out more information on a few of the women.
The book group as a whole found the stories needlessly depressing and I can’t really argue on that point. They were dark. There was a PTSD link in a few and more than one death. We all noticed a homosexuality thread throughout the stories. Most of us could pick out a favorite story or two and the book read really fast so that’s a plus.
So, I really liked it but I was the only one. Read at your own risk 🙂
This counted as one for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, story collection by a woman.