Sunday, 15 September 2019

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R Anderson

Monster, She Wrote The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson
Published by Quirk Books on the 17th September 2019.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

I started reading Monster, She Wrote, with a pencil and notebook by my side thinking to jot down a few titles and authors that caught my attention. I would like to start this review by saying Do Not Do This! Within just a few chapters I had patted myself on the back for already having read Frankenstein and The Yellow Wallpaper, and having an Ann Radcliffe collected works downloaded since reading Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (note to self, Read the Radcliffes!). However I had also already blunted my pencil on a TBR of suffocating proportions and I wasn't even a quarter of the way through this book yet. If you truly want horror, the realisation of just how many important women authors I haven't read was terrifying!

I am, of course, partly joking here, but also partly serious. Monster, She Wrote is an excellent resource for horror and speculative fiction fans, and also for readers such as myself who want include as wide a variety of influences as I can. Nesrine Malik's We Need New Stories, which I recently reviewed, clarified my thoughts around how the stories we read and hear informs our social and cultural expectations. Monster, She Wrote is a perfect accompaniment because it shows me hundreds of stories already in existence. Perhaps we don't only need new stories, but to make sure that these older stories continue to exist and aren't forgotten.

Kroger and Anderson have done an excellent job in drawing this book together. At times the sheer number of books and authors they cross reference is bewildering, but it's also a superb statement of pride in the history of female authors in what are commonly mis-assumed to be male-dominated genres. I liked the progression through time from the 1600s to the present day and also the grouping of authors by genre where possible. The illustrations are a wonderful idea too. They are brilliantly evocative of classic horror themes. So I now have a real burst of enthusiasm for historic horror, a teetering TBR, and the kernel of an idea for a Monster, She Wrote reading challenge - I just need to make a list of every book Kroger and Anderson namecheck, and then read them!

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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you chuckles! You can expect to see more gothicy horrory weirdness on this blog over the next year I think!

  2. I love this. I love all those older monster stories.

    1. There's some fab looking monster stories quoted in Monster She Wrote and I'm looking forward to finding copies to read.

  3. I'll grab a pencil and notebook too! :) HAHA! Love how your TBR got so BIG! :)

    Nonconforming Female writers writing scary stories??? YES!!! This book is so MOI! :)

    Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  4. Loved the review - I just requested it on NetGalley...there go my ARC numbers, haha

    1. Oh no! I did think of you and Chuckles while I was reading this. You're doing so well reducing your TBR and I think Monster She Wrote will just wreck your efforts ;-)

  5. Oh wow, now I want this book just to get all the horror recommendations! There are so many amazing female writers out there and as I am new to the horror genre, I need moreeee!

    1. You and me both! I'm looking forward to working my way through lots of the recommendations :-)

  6. I love the sound of this!!! Adding to my wishlist for sure!

    1. Brilliant! I hope you get as enthused by this as I did