A generous collection of 22 ghostly tales, some by well-known writers, most by long (and sometimes unjustly) forgotten...


"RESTLESS SPIRITS: Ghost Stories by American Women, 1872-1926"

A generous collection of 22 ghostly tales, some by well-known writers, most by long (and sometimes unjustly) forgotten authors. The volume is prefaced by editor Lundie's long and informative Introduction, which divides the stories thematically into five major categories: marriage, motherhood, sexual rivalry, madness, and widowhood or separation. What keeps this from being a really superior anthology of its kind is the overfamiliarity of some of its contents (Edith Wharton's ""The Lady's Maid's Bell,"" Ellen Glasgow's ""The Past,"" Helen R. Hull's ""Clay-Shuttered Doors,"" Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's ""Luella Miller,"" for example--superior stories, one and all--have been anthologized, as it were, to death), and the indifferent quality of several pieces (including, most egregiously, Cornelia A.P. Corner's ""The Little Gray Ghost"" and Josephine Daskam Bacon's ""The Gospel""). Lundie makes insupportable claims for such work as Mary Heaton Vorse's overheated tale about a young woman possessed by the very contrary spirit of her predecessor (""The Second Wife"") and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's ""The Giant Wistaria,"" a shrill and obviously deeply personal fictional defense of an unhappy woman's suicide (Gilman would later take her own life). Much better are Zora Neale Hurston's colorful, folkloric ""Spunk""; Hildegarde Hawthorne's compact and beautifully written tale of a wronged woman who ensures that she and her straying lover will remain united forever (""A Legend of Sonora""); (the ever underrated) Harriet Prescott Spofford's intricate ""Her Story,"" a subtle, boldly drawn portrayal of a woman who is declared mad and institutionalized by her unloving husband--and who may in fact be a victim of demonic possession; and M.E.M. Davis's clever, atmospheric story, set on a vividly evoked Louisiana plantation, about a young woman's fianc‚ seduced by the determined ghost of her passionate mother--capped by a very satisfying surprise ending. To be skimmed, then, rather than read straight through, but nevertheless a collection that fills long-standing gaps in the fields of both supernatural fiction and women's studies.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Univ. of Massachusetts

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996