In her first collection of stories, Birds of a Lesser Paradise (2012), Megan Mayhew Bergman focused on the relationships between humans and animals. In her new collection, Almost Famous Women, Bergman focuses on the lives of real women who have been marginalized (or mythologized) in history. They include Violet and Daisy Hilton, conjoined twins at odds in life but not in body; Marion “Joe” Carstairs, a womanizing power boat racer; Allegra Byron, the illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont; and many other women whose stories are as captivating as they are obscure.
Bergman’s focus is on gender, regardless of time, race, sexuality or nationality, and she celebrates complexity rather than apologizing for it—after all, great women aren’t necessarily good. Her prose is as startling in its variance and complexity as the lives of the women it describes. Their once overlooked stories are not to be missed.