Published by Simon and Schuster on January 6th 2015
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Most of us have read about Zelda Fitzgerald and Edna St. Vincent Millay, but what about the women just a step away? What about Edna’s sister Nancy or Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly? In her new collection of short stories, Megan Mayhew Bergman reconstructs the lives of women who lived on the edge of celebrity by bringing their unique experiences to the forefront for the first time.
Rather than try to crawl into the minds of her chosen women, Bergman imagines many of their lives through the people around them. These fictional narrators allow Almost Famous Women to feel intimately close while also giving readers a greater sense of time and space that may have been missed from a first-person perspective. So, instead of seeing Lord Byron through the hopeful eyes of his illegitimate daughter Allegra, “The Autobiography of Allegra Byron” is narrated by the nurse who cared for the 4-year-old in the convent where she was raised. Through her, we are able to see both the sweet, simple life Allegra led and the heartbreaking, dismissive attitude of her father.
However, Bergman does take on the voice of her characters in portions of the book, and does so in stories that beg for a personal touch. In both “The Internees”, a story less than two pages long about the liberated women of Bergen-Belsen, and “The Pretty, Grown-Together Children”, which tells the tale of conjoined twin performers, Bergman embraces the first-person perspective with a collective ease that highlights her broad talent.
Each piece reads like a gorgeously penned slice of a biography, which makes the collection perfect even for readers reluctant to pick up short stories. Courageous, bold and well ahead of their time Bergman’s Almost Famous Women are more than ready to take the spotlight.
Hear more about the book in Megan Mayhew Bergman’s NPR interview, These Almost Famous Women Won’t Be Forgotten Again.