RESTLESS SPIRITS by Catherine A. Lundie

RESTLESS SPIRITS

Ghost Stories by American Women, 1872-1926

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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. Comer'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 fiancÇ 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. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-55849-055-8
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996