eBook, 256 pages
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.
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman is a highly recommended collection of fictionalized stories that are, in varying degrees, about women from history who were almost famous.
While these stories are best classified as historical fiction, Bergman did try to tie her characters actions into real historical details about their lives. Some of the almost famous women take the forefront in the stories as the main character while others play an accidental, footnote, also appearing role, much as they seemed to have done in life. These are short, easy to read stories. Some of the women included are: Violet& Daisy Hilton, 'Joe' Carstairs, Lucia Joyce, Romaine Brooks, Norma Millay, Dolly Wilde, Butterfly McQueen, Tiny Davis, Hazel Watkins, Clara Byron, Beryl Markham, and the women of Bergen-Belsen.
Since it is often a fictionalized character other than the famous woman narrating the stories or telling their story, often the famous women play an incidental part in the story. I was a bit disappointed that the woman didn't have a bit more crucial role in all of the stories. As with any collection there were some stories I enjoyed more than others. There were also a couple stories that seemed repetitive rather than unique. Still, the well written stories all left me wanting more. It was great to have a list of resources Bergman used to research the lives of the women included at the end of the collection.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Scribner for review purposes.