Hello Humans! Yes, after a little break I am back with extra socks on and I have a lot of great book reviews coming for you in the next week or so. Starting off with a book that I mentioned in my Spooky Reading for Scaredy-Cats video – so this is absolutely perfect for anyone wanting to beef up their Halloween reading.
Meet the women writers who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales, from Frankenstein to The Haunting of Hill House and beyond.
Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? If you know the astounding work of Shirley Jackson, whose novel The Haunting of Hill House was reinvented as a Netflix series, then try the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V. C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Colter, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). Curated reading lists point you to their most spine-chilling tales.
Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories.
As the summary says, this book is part biography and part readers guide and I think that is the best selling point of this book. Not only do you learn a lot about the women who wrote speculative fiction but at the end of each biography you get suggestions for what you should read of the author’s work, what else you might want to read of theirs and some things that might be similar (often drawing from modern works including things like graphic novels and Television). This basically means you can use this book as a springboard to include more women speculative fiction writers in your TBR very easily. This book also tells you what might be out of copyright so you can find some things to read for free if you’re so inclined.
I thought this book was fascinating. I knew shamefully little about the women who wrote speculative fiction (beyond Mary Shelley) before I read this book and now I feel like I want to go out and find out more. In fact, I’d quite like to have a similar book for purely fantasy fiction – though I’m sure there’d be a lot of overlap at the beginning.
This book is nice and easy to read, it doesn’t expect you to know too much beforehand but neither is it patronising – the tone is just perfect (at least for someone like me who didn’t know too much about the subject beforehand).
There are illustrations and quotes throughout the book that just make it so much more of a special experience to read – for those wanting something to display or something to give as a gift I think this would be top-notch.
One thing the book does address is that it is western focussed. We’re dealing with speculative fiction written in English and that does limit the scope of the book somewhat. The book also acknowledges that most of the writers of colour are either lost to time or were not published. Looking at the later chapters it’s nice to see those women of colour beginning to be featured and looking forward at how speculative fiction should be more diverse in the future – I appreciated it.
What I found particularly interesting is how many writers of speculative fiction either were or could easily have been queer women. Perhaps some of that is conjecture but there are some strong arguments made within the book as to the potential paramours of these writers – I thought it was interesting that even now queer women seem to find a place in speculative fiction that they do not always find elsewhere. Basically, I felt seen!
Overall, I think this is a great addition to any bookworm’s shelf even if, like me, you don’t read anything remotely resembling horror – it’s certainly one to check out!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher – all opinions are my own.
Monster She Wrote is available now!
What say you? Will you be adding this to your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!