The title of Emma Donoghue's collection of short stories is enough to make you stop if you see it in a bookstore. But the tale of a woman who in 1726 convinced much of England that her offspring had long ears and fur is only one of 17 pieces about generally unknown figures in British and Irish history. They're all women who, despite differences, share strong personalities and vibrant narratives.
A blind poet, a governess with groundbreaking views on female education, a miniature child on display to the gentry, a young woman in a manor house who discovers the importance of her black skin, a prophet whose sexual desires fire her talk of the Second Coming -- these and more are Donoghue's subjects, women who stand up to a society that, in various ways, undervalues them. Even the downtrodden here are powerful figures, several of them lesbian.
Just as strikingly, Donoghue (Slammerkin, which made NOW's top-10 list in 2000; Kissing The Witch) transmutes the fascinating bits of history she's unearthed with magical prose, using telling details and poetic images to create little jewels. Here's a writer whose style -- and each tale has its own -- catches the imagination with its vivid, startling qualities.
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THE WOMAN WHO GAVE BIRTH TO RABBITS by Emma Donoghue (Virago/Little Brown)