I have a small problem: I will read a book, like it, and intend to review it. "Intend" being the operative word in this scenario. Then, three months later when the book is actually published, I've forgotten most of what I want to say about it. Also, I read the book on a digital ARC to begin with, and anything that I highlighted disappeared along with the entire text on the publication date, so that's just one more layer of obfuscation that I'm dealing with in trying to write a review.
I could resolve to review books I read in a more timely manner, I suppose, but I know myself well enough to know that it will never happen. Not unless by some miracle I got hired for big bucks so I could quit my day job in order to write really vague and occasionally unprofessional reviews, and that ain't likely to happen.
|Yup, that's me all right.|
The other women comprising the characters in these stories were just as interesting: a set of Siamese twins from the 1930s; a daredevil boat-driving woman; Edna St. Vincent Millay's sister, Norma; Lord Byron's illegitimate daughter, Allegra, who was relegated to a convent; the artist Romaine Brooks; a troupe of integrated musicans traveling through the Jim Crow South; and in a chillingly poignant 2-page story, the nameless women liberated by Allied forces in the Bergen-Belson camp.
Bergman jumps around in her point of view with each story, sometimes narrating in a first person or close third person of the woman in question, sometimes through the eyes of their lovers, or from somebody entirely on the periphery of the woman's story. For the chapter on Shirley Jackson, she actually does a retelling of "The Lottery," and sacrilegious though it may sound, for my money, I prefer Bergman's. (I went back and read the original after I read the updated version, and to be fair, once the reader reaches the climax in one story, it's inevitably anti-climactic in the other.)
Each story is a snapshot, and an intriguing one at that, highlighting moments ranging from the quiet to the sublime. I also love that each chapter, with the exception of the ones on the Bergen-Belson women and Shirley Jackson, open with an portrait of the subject, and in most cases, literal snapshots. As with any story collection, the stories here are occasionally uneven, and some of them certainly resonated more with me than others, but this is a strong collection. I loved the concept behind it and would recommend it to any reader who enjoys historical fiction, literary fiction, short stories, or biographies of interesting ladies. So, pretty much everybody, in other words.
NB: This book was published by Scriber on 6 January 2015, and I read a digital advance reading copy that was provided upon my request by the publisher. It qualifies for my "diversify your life" listing because many of the characters are women of color OR fall under the LGBT spectrum.