Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Review: 'Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction' by Lisa Kröger, Melanie R. Anderson

I'm a sucker for a good book recommendation. I love curating my ever growing 'to read'-list on Goodreads, so naturally I'd be intrigued by a book meant to introduce me to a whole range of female authors. Ok, admittedly it was the title that got me first, since I simply cannot resist a Frankenstein reference, especially if it goes hand in hand with a Murder, She Wrote reference! Thanks to Quirk Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 9/17/2019
Publisher: Quirk Books
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.

For those looking for an academic deep dive into the way female authors originated and developed the horror genre, turned it to their own benefits and used it as a form of self-expression, Monster, She Wrote is not the book for you. However, if you're looking for a reference guide that will allow you to explore all of the above independently, Monster, She Wrote is a perfect starting point. Starting with the "Founding Mothers", Kröger and Anderson track the wide variety of female authors who have expressed themselves through Horror and Speculative Fiction. Many authors in this book will be familiar to lovers of these genres, but there are also plenty of new discoveries to be made, especially once it explores the different offshoots of the Horror genre as well as the lost authors of the Pulp fiction era. Of course some authors you're looking for will not be featured, just as some you'd never expected will be. Considering the constraints on a book like this, Kröger and Anderson have done a great job at presenting a topical and chronological overview. (For some more unusual Speculative Fiction by women I also recommend Sisters of the Revolution.)

What I adored about Monster, She Wrote was the fun, almost conversational, tone. Sometimes reading this book felt like having coffee with a literature devotee who pleasantly but passionately told you about all these amazing people you've never heard of. Each author gets her own list of recommended titles and further reading, which means that if any of them catch your eye you can hit the ground running. The ways in which the authors featured in Murder, She Wrote took inspiration from each other, built upon each others' groundbreaking work and pushed boundaries wherever they could, is not just interesting but also inspiring. Much of the work done and art created by these women has gone on to inspire the male authors we hear so much about like H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. The fact that these female authors aren't as well-known is a shame and books like Murder, She Wrote are a great first step in correcting this error.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

Murder, She Wrote will be the end of your dreams of downsizing your 'to read'-list. Kröger and Anderson have written a great reference book for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of female authors in Horror and Speculative Fiction.

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