Book Review: "Ladies of Gothic Horror (A Collection of Classic Stories)" (2019 Anthology)
Ladies of Gothic Horror Book Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Published by Midnight Rain Publishing
What do you think of when you think of Gothic horror? Is it the epistolary style? An old haunted house? Mental illness? Ghostly figures? Maybe some religious overtones? Chances are that all these things and many more are at the top of the list, but I can bet you there’s one thing you don’t see much of- women authors.
The simple fact of the matter is that female authors have historically been pushed to the back of the line in the genre, but Gothic horror from the late 19th and early 20th century hides a dirty secret. Are you ready for it? Here goes:
There were a cubic fuckton of disturbingly talented female authors writing horror during that time.
Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Women have been working insanely hard at practically everything for as long as we’ve been populating this planet, and men have been taking the credit for their efforts and pushing them off to the wings for just about as long. There’s good news, though: author/anthology editor Mitzi Szereto (The Thelonius T. Bear Chronicles) is here to rectify that and expose you to some damn fine authors of horror not named Mary Shelley or Virginia Woolf (though they’re in here too, of course).
Ladies of Gothic Horror is a detailed collection of gothic horror featuring an all-female cast. There are 17 stories in total covering the range from the classic haunting (“A Haunted House” by the aforementioned Virginia Woolf) to betrayal and nasty shocks (“The Fair Hand of Ambrosine” by Marjorie Bowen) to a tale of soul-selling and grue (“The Ensouled Violin” by Helena Petrova Blavatsky). Included is a heartbreaking tale of sweet sorrow (“The Lost Ghost” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman) and a moral tale that will leave you shaken (“The Room of Evil Thought” by Elia W. Peattie).
Only a couple of the stories leave you a little cold in the overwordiness of the language and unnecessary lengthiness of the tale. The best part, though, is that even when you are left a bit on the outside looking in and slightly disengaged, you’re still floored by literary acumen of this diverse collection of talented women.
It’s a fantastic touch that Szereto includes a detailed biography of each author at the end of every story. Usually, these things are a postscript that you look right past as you breeze on to the next story, but in this case it’s critical to the work. Szereto shows you what obstacles these often brave women went through in their lives and careers, and it’s information and a lesson that should not be overlooked! You’ll find some damn fine fiction in this collection and some equally impressive true stories.
The obligatory Mary W. Shelley (Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus) is a thing of sublime beauty, a tale of the banal horror of living forever. It’s almost comic in its effectiveness. The crown jewel of the collection, in my not so humble opinion, is actually a tie between “The Gray Woman” by Elizabeth Gaskell and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Both feature strong women in horrifically oppressive circumstances and are presented in a way that illustrates, through simple real-time language of the day, the true horror of being the “fairer sex”. It’s heady stuff. Though both come to different flavors of conclusion, they’re twins in the realm of just how purely shitty it often was to be a woman in a time when “speak when spoken to” was a rule. Yikes!
Full disclosure: it took me some time (4 months to be precise) to finish this. That’s not a knock on the anthology, and it’s not as much of a statement on the amount of time I get to read as it sounds like. I simply wanted to take my time with these stories. You don’t see anthologies like this every day. It’s an important work that should be absorbed with the time to read between the lines. There are stories within stories in these pages.
Take the time to absorb it all.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Ladies-Gothic-Collection-Classic-Stories/dp/1794556311/ref=sr_1_11?crid=3PIFA8TLRUYO&keywords=mitzi+szereto&qid=1563087144&s=gateway&sprefix=Mitzi+Sz%2Caps%2C176&sr=8-11