Women’s Weird: More Strange Stories by Women, 1891-1937

21B2D016-FBCA-4251-A832-3C32E3AEB6E0

HANDHELD PRESS

Edited by Melissa Edmundson

My previous reviews of classic or older works: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/

My other reviews of books edited by Melissa Edmundson: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/12/27/the-outcast-and-the-rite-helen-de-guerry-simpson/

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

19 thoughts on “Women’s Weird: More Strange Stories by Women, 1891-1937

  1. Strangely in the light of the wording I happened to use yesterday above, the next story below, just now read, contains these words …. “They could not make head or tail of the context for some time, and then Mr Maxwell discovered that a leaf had been cut out.”

    The Blue Room
    by Lettice Galbraith (1897)

    “Something occurred then of which, since it has nothing to do with this story, I need only say that it wiped out for ever any idea of marriage on my part,…”

    Yet this young lady as narrator becomes by the end of the story an old woman called Mrs Marris, or am I confused? As much as she is confused by the word ‘incubate’ and ‘incubus’ in the different connections with poultry farming and witchcraft! That makes this otherwise effective but standard tale of haunted-room-for-guest-overflow bedroom-with-a-backstory in a large house intriguing and even more creepy! Not forgetting the lethal crease left by a body in bedcovers….”testing the ghost-theory” of Sprenger?

  2. FYI
    Johnny Mains’ anthologies of stories akin to Women’s Weird as reviewed by me in the past, as follows….

    A Suggestion of Ghosts – Supernatural Fiction by Women 1854-1900: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/a-suggestion-of-ghosts-supernatural-fiction-by-women-1854-1900/

    An Obscurity of Ghosts – Further Tales of the Supernatural by Women 1876–1903: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/an-obscurity-of-ghosts/

    Remember The Dead (male and female authors): https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/remember-the-dead/

    Our Lady of Hate – The Short Stories of Catherine Lord: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/12/16/our-lady-of-hate-the-short-stories-of-catherine-lord/

  3. “The voice of poultry usually means not only a hen-coop but a barn and a house,…”, but here means a gradual, delightfully inconclusive narrative incubation of thr open-ended mystery of…

    The Green Bowl
    by Sarah Orne Jewett (1901)

    “We were on our way home, as safe as dolls in a nursery when we had our little adventure and got the green bowl.”

    The ‘adventures’ of a lady and her young ‘companion’ lady with horse and carriage, this one she tells within the frame story to other ladies, an adventure, lost under ‘drowning rain’ and hearing that voice of poultry, but at last seeing a church steeple, that later she unaccountably calls a spire! And manifold horse sheds outside a church wherein which church they find basic shelter till found in the morning by a local woman who gives them the heavenly apotheosis of an idyllic breakfast and the story of her two green bowls, one she gives to our narrator as ‘companion’ reciprocalist of their fore-telling powers. A strong suspenseful tale that needs iconising. A narrator who at one point says, “The only trouble was that there was so little of me.” And you will never forget the description of the green bowl as looked at by the listening ladies within the frame story. But such a claim of never forgetting depends on my own fore-telling skills, or will only time tell? —

    “…and when we had been in the house an hour one felt as if it had been a week…”

    • “The old pony plodded up yet another hill; we went clattering down its deep descent; and there, in the green bowl of a meadow sloping down from its woody fringes above, lay scattered the bellying booths, the gaudy wagons and cages of the circus. All but hidden in the trees above them, a crooked, tarnished weathercock glinted in the sunset afterglow.“ (my italics)
      — from MEMOIRS OF A MIDGET by Walter de La Mare (my review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/02/memoirs-of-a-midget-by-walter-de-la-mare/)

      The weathercock and the circus, and compare the ladies’ horse in ‘The Green Bowl’ “The horse was whinnying after us like a whole circus,…”
      And the storyteller’s own ‘midget’ statement: “The only trouble was that there was so little of me.”

      • I have now since read the little bit on-line about the above story and I see it has been interpreted as a ‘Lesbian’ story. I can empathise with that interpretation and factored it in.
        WDLM’s Midget lady also had such Sapphic yearnings as a major part of his novel.

  4. Pingback: THE GREEN BOWL iconised | Shadows & Elbows

  5. Beware possible spoilers.

    Dreamer
    by Barbara Baynton (1902)

    Another of those stories where someone struggles homeward after many years and finds their loved one, here a mother, either dead or dreaming — a near-sighted woman in the dark just off the train, her advanced letter of arrival seemingly ignored, and finding herself in the erstwhile homelands that a thunderstorm has now turned into a foreign territory of swollen river with its wild accoutrements acting as both godly help and fell hindrance to her passage homeward…
    Yes, another story with such a pattern of a plot, but perhaps the most effective of them all, as we gradually gain a picture of the backstory, of mother-daughter bonds, and, with overflowing tank undiverted, who is dreaming whom? Or is it Death dreaming up us all?

  6. The Hall Bedroom
    by Mary E Wilkins Freeman (1905)

    “, the gentle slope of the hills and the church spire in the background – but still it is well done. It gives me the impression of an artist…”

    
Whatever that description of a painting in a so-called hall bedroom really is, this story itself is a “vestibule” to nowhere or heaven, a narrowing channel to the ‘fifth dimension’, or whatever takes the reader’s fancy, full of fragrances and tastes, where effects precede causes… “It seemed as if the odour reached my mentality first.” The brain says rose, then the nose smells it.
    A sort of archetypal haunted painting story, here in a boarding house on 240 Pleasant Street, and its hall bedroom with a haunting backstory.
    “I seemed to be wading breast-high through flower-beds of Paradise,…” Eventually touching those denizens that a mere struck match makes vanish…
    Whether dream or a new religion, I note there were once 240 pence in a pound, the mock pleasure of money, and that piece of paper with figures just accounts…
    …’advance and retreat’ of bliss like life’s river? To heaven or nowhere.

    “It was never cloying, though of such sharp sweetness that it fairly stung. It was the merging of a material sense into a spiritual one. I said to myself, ‘I have lived my life and always have I gone hungry until now.’”

  7. The House
    by Katherine Mansfield (1912)

    “‘….the novelty never ceases. I feel each day is our first day together.’
    ‘Oh, it is the sense of “home” which is so precious to me – it is the wonderful sense of peace – of the rooms sanctified – of the quiet permanence – it is that which is so precious after –’”

    This is quite a revelation for me. I genuinely believed that I had reviewed all this author’s collected stories here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/03/12/the-collected-stories-katherine-mansfield/, but this marvellous ghost story seems not to be among them!
    In apotheotic synergy with Walter de la Mare (my reviews of all his stories here), this Mansfield story with Bloomsbury references tells of a girl or young lady in a rainstorm with soggy package of madeira cake who shelters in the porch of house that is to be let or sold. And somehow she is transported within as a future idyllic life in the house as herself with a husband or are they children role-playing their adult selves with teddies and their own pretend children? A house we now live in ourselves for a nonce. A life or lives left unlived! It is pure magic, general fiction as well as ghost story fiction at its very best, and thanks to this book for bringing it to my attention. The ‘quiet permanence’ that is ourselves…

  8. Pingback: The Houseby Katherine Mansfield (1912) | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

  9. The Red Bungalow
    by Bithia Mary Croker (1919)

    “Standing aloof between the approaches was the house – large, red-tiled, and built back in the shape of the letter ‘T’…”

    This is a stylish haunting story set in British Imperial India as helped along by the book’s generous amount of footnotes, a general feature of these Women’s Weird anthologies. Here, of a child-brooding British lady whose cousin brings his wife and delightful children to this part of India, and the lady already there is reluctant to see them move into the eponymous bungalow, but not only because she had grown fond of the children, because the place had been airbrushed till now discovered from some hinterland, but why? Yet it seemed too good to be true for the new family’s needs till whatever backstory curse embodied by the bungalow saw them go ‘home’, which meant to go back to Britain, I see. Whatever the message that was meant to give? The derelict stable area had ‘stray goats’. The actual stray ghost description seen by the children inside the bungalow, however, has left a mark on me and is a moment in such tales of terror to cherish, or to airbrush, too, till one is drawn back to read it again, as I think I might do so to see what else I find in its ‘bran pie’.

    “– while I burrowed into the bran, and there interred the bodies of dolls and cats and horses, and all manner of pleasant surprises.”

  10. From ‘bran pie’ to the next story’s “brain fever”…

    Outside the House
    by Bessie Kyffin-Taylor (1920)

    “He softly kicked the ball of wool on its way, with a sly wink at me, adding – ‘That’s how they get there, unless the Twins walk off with them in another direction, among the trees;…’”

    On one level a ludicrously and disarmingly unbelievable plot, on another an effective echo of the First World War trenches and the precarious coal mine working conditions back home. “…the horror lay in the suffocating fog, and in the apparent wish to haul me into some abyss” and the no man’s land between trenches…A mix of real-time account by a defiant but shell-shocked, hell-shocked man with war-injured leg, allowed to visit the large house with what you will ever surely store away in your mind as the Low Lawn, a new archetype to conjure with, and someone else, a fellow soldier as friend, viewing this account in hindsight, as I do, at a shadowy third remove, with my own real-time review of the story he concocts, as truth or dream.
    Why was the lame man allowed by his sweetheart to go to meet her family in this large house as her affianced but without her? The house where you had to go indoors at 5 pm into a sort of brief visit to Bonnyville scenario, imprisoned inside from the horrific visions outside, whatever ironmongery files upon a soft hasp can do. Visions that are seriously worthy of the greatest writers of the weird like Machen’s Angel of the Mons and William Hope Hodgson’s House on the Borderland. A very strong story in this way that, for me, has the best description of what I have long found to be gluey or treacly or foggy Zenoism as major themes in much weird literature such as Aickman and many others (see countless reviews on my websites)…”’Something’ retarded my every step! I found myself trying to put into words my inability to get along,…”
    And a ‘fairyland of flowers’ inside the house in all the rooms including a domed garden with clock golf! To compensate for keeping the things outside outside! A mutant apotheosis of Elizabeth Bowen!
    A brain fever that even makes Cartesian philosophy complicit!

    “‘Dear child, I’m a man with a thinking machine. I can’t promise not to think,’ I said.”

  11. Pingback: Outside the House by Bessie Kyffin-Taylor (1920) | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

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