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April 26, 2019

Ladies of Gothic Horror, edited by Mitzi Szereto ~ a Review

by MK French

This is a collection of seventeen stories from various well known Gothic authors, including: Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edith Wharton, Marjorie Bowen, Gertrude Atherton, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman,  and Elia W. Peattie. Most people would think of Bram Stoker's Dracula as an example of Gothic horror, but there were plenty of ladies willing and able to delve into the dark for their stories. Mitzi Szareto writes her own Gothic flavored horror stories, so it's only natural that she would collate and edit this collection. Her introduction is a thoughtful look into the time period, and the challenges that these women had faced in getting published, let alone in living their everyday lives. A brief biography follows each story, and I find that sometimes that gives a lot more insight into the text.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Ladies of Gothic Horror
January 2019; 978-1794556317
ebook, print (364 pages); Gothic fiction
The collection opens with Gertrude Atherton's "Death and the Woman," which is perfectly in keeping with the Gothic era of language and the internalized terror that women lived within that age. This is more like "The Hour" or "The Yellow Wallpaper" level of writing if you're familiar with those short stories. (If you're not, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is also included in this collection!) Others are written in a conversational tone, like a story-within-a-story, as many tales of the period were told. Mary Elizabeth Braddon's "The Cold Embrace" has a lot of repetition as you read it, which makes it sound almost lyrical, and would be a great read around a campfire. Edith Wharton's "Afterward" is a longer story, and carries more of an air of mystery to it before the final conclusion explains everything. Elizabeth Gaskell's "The Gray Woman" is another long story told in a roundabout way, complete with an epistolary story within a story format, but one that doesn't strike me with the same level of disquiet or horror that the other ones in this volume do.

These are not tales of horror in the sense that they're gory or full of suspense and the literary equivalent of a jump scare. Characters deal with terror and fear, ghosts and breaks in expected traditions. The unknown holds the fear for these characters, and it's more that there's the atmosphere of foreboding that brings the horror. We have stories with ghosts, some malevolent, some seeking vengeance, and some simply waiting for a wrong to be corrected. I especially enjoyed "The Phantom Coach," and while I'm not fond of how the story "The Lost Ghost" is told, the story itself is haunting.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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  1. Adding this to my TBR! What an interesting cover as well!!