Posts Tagged Megan Mayhew Bergman

STEELE PICKS: BEST FICTION of 2015

To provide a bit of background, I read 150 books in 2015. I wrote 52 reviews for 2015 releases on this site. I gave very few books 5/5*. I am currently reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara so since I started it in 2015, I reserve the right to include it in my best of 2015 list.

Here are my picks for best fiction:

Outline by Rachel Cusk [Farrar, Straus and Giroux]
–gorgeous writing. purchase at Amazon: Outline: A Novel

outline

Where Women are Kings by Christie Watson [Other Press]
–from my review: Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. Stunning. Entwines race, foster families, adoption, mental illness and cultural differences with exquisite descriptions and phrasing. purchase at Amazon: Where Women Are Kings

where women are kings

The Green Road by Anne Enright [W. W. Norton & Company]
–from my review: A perfect novel with imperfect characters that spans decades and continents. purchase at Amazon: The Green Road: A Novel

23316521

The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro [Algonquin]
–from my review: When you think every WWII story has been told, an original narrative comes along and you realize there’s a plethora of war stories remaining to be explored and shared. Abstract expressionist art, French refugees and the WPA collide in this riveting historical fiction novel that focuses on the sudden disappearance of young Jewish-American artist Alizée Benoit. purchase at Amazon: The Muralist: A Novel

muralist

Katherine Carlyle by Rupert Thomson [Other Press]
–from my review: Rather haunting and definitely unusual. It’s tough to describe except to say it’s part mystery and part personal exploration. A strange story –in a good way– with gorgeous writing and an intriguing story-line. purchase at Amazon: Katherine Carlyle

katherine carlyle

The Last September by Nina de Gramont [Algonquin]
–from my review: excellent characters and a dazzling story-line involving mental illness, family, infidelity, relationships, love and murder. purchase at Amazon: The Last September

last september

Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht [Harper Perennial]
–engrossing, beautiful and creative novel about a group of 30-somethings finding their place in the world. purchase at Amazon: Migratory Animals: A Novel (P.S.)

22138421

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman [Scribner]
–from my review: Brilliant concept and exquisitely written. This short story collection focuses on intriguing, bold and remarkable women from history. It’s edgy historical fiction. These women lived life as they chose to live it which likely made them misfits and outliers during their lifetimes. purchase at Amazon: Almost Famous Women: Stories by Mayhew Bergman, Megan (2015) Hardcover

almost famous women

The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat [Other Press]
from my review: Touching, creative, lovely novel. It tells the story of a child of the Holocaust in a unique manner. purchase at Amazon: The Travels of Daniel Ascher

ascher

Music for Wartime: stories by Rebecca Makkai [Viking]
–from my review: an exceptional, stunning and creative short-story collection. purchase at Amazon: Music for Wartime: Stories

music for wartime

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North [Blue Rider Press]
–from my review: a fascinating novel about creativity, artists, fitting in and being satisfied with success, fame and how we perceive ourselves and how we want others to understand us. Sophie Stark, who changed her name to suit her persona, is a renowned and elusive filmmaker. She makes enigmatic and often strikingly sad, honest films that strip bare the characters and dig into their psyches. purchase at Amazon: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

life and death of sophie stark

Aquarium by David Vann [Atlantic Monthly Press]
–from my review: This is Vann’s first novel centered on a female protagonist. Twelve-year-old Caitlin lives in Seattle with her dockworker single mother. Older now, Caitlin looks back on this time with the wisdom one gains through age and experience. There’s a lighter tone than previous works until events draw to a boiling point for Caitlin and her mother. Every day after school Caitlin visits the aquarium to study the fish while waiting for her mom to finish work and retrieve her. She finds the various fish and sea life fascinating and allows herself contemplation and solitude. purchase at Amazon: Aquarium

aquarium

Tightrope by Simon Mawer [Other Press]
-Feminist character Marian Sutro returns from WWII determined to find her place. from my review: Mawer writes exquisitely and Tightrope draws you in to Marian’s life, the consequences of her actions during WWII and how she copes in the present. On the cover, Marian looks like she’s in a Tamara de Lempicka painting. She’d be an ideal subject for the bold artist. Mawer includes cold war fears, atomic bombs, a gay scientist (Marian’s brother) as well as Marian’s love affair with a Russian Jew. purchase at Amazon: Tightrope

tightrope

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott [Doubleday]
–from my review: Kate Alcott writes spectacularly strong feminist female characters in historical fiction. Women who want to have careers and love. Women who juggle and manage both. Or learn from their decisions. They’re smart protagonists and Alcott has quickly become a must-read favorite author for me. She intermingles her fictional characters in real-life historical settings and it works. purchase at Amazon: A Touch of Stardust: A Novel

touch of stardust

Shop Indie Bookstores

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

book review: Almost Famous Women

almost famous women

Almost Famous Women: stories By Megan Mayhew Bergman.
Scribner| January 2015.|256 pages |$25.00| ISBN: 978—1-4767-8656-8

Brilliant concept and exquisitely written. This short story collection focuses on intriguing, bold and remarkable women from history. It’s edgy historical fiction. These women lived life as they chose to live it which likely made them misfits and outliers during their lifetimes.

Author Megan Mayhew Bergman envisioned the voices and back-stories for some truly unique women. She conducted extensive research and utilized her extraordinary imagination and creativity. She gets into the psyches of these women. She provides a voice. She imagines their hopes, dreams, desires, triumphs and disappointments. She plays around with point-of-view. It’s all exhilarating and works amazingly well in this format. There’s brilliance, heartache and triumph throughout these pages.

Included are the tragic stories about Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter and Oscar Wilde’s niece. Other stories tackle the final years of Gone with the Wind actress Butterfly McQueen; the heyday of daredevil and motorcycle trick-rider Hazel Eaton and interracial girl band the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

In “The Pretty, Grown-Together Children” Mayhew Bergman writes of the conjoined Hilton sisters, Violet and Daisy–a side-show act for many years. One twin married, the other wasn’t allowed. Daisy recalls their story. How they were discovered. How they lived. How they were individual women but shared many aspects of the same body. “Our voices could be like one. I could feel hers in my bones, especially when she sang—a strong quicksilver soprano. We were attached at the hips and shared blood, but no vital organs. Four arms, four legs—enough to make a man give a second look.” These women remained mostly positive despite their circumstances. “There were no secrets. Imagine: you could say nothing, do nothing, eat nothing, touch nothing, love nothing without the other knowing.”

Cross-dressing Standard Oil heiress Joe Carstairs races boats and romances women in “The Siege at Whale Cay.” Told by her live-in lover: “What exhausted Georgie about Joe’s guests was that they were all-important. And important people made you feel not normal, but unimportant.”

In the tempered, melodramatic story “Norma Millay’s Film Noir Period,” the author creates a scenario for Norma Millay who lived at her sister’s estate for decades. Norma worked as a successful stage actress for quite some time. In the shadows? Jealous of her successful sister, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Unknown. Modern day example perhaps J. Lo and her sister Linda Lopez, a well-known New York disc jockey. “Norma curls next to her sister in the chair, as she often does, wriggling one arm behind Vincent’s back and laying a cheek on her bony shoulder. When she breathes in, her sister’s claret-colored hair falls across her face, and she feels deep love tinged with resentment, like the pure ice leaching red dye from the river.”

“A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch” depicts the resilient and determined Beryl Markham, the first certified horse trainer in Africa. She’s struggling financially to start her new venture: “She never ate much. Meager eating was good for keeping her figure, and her figure was an asset, on a horse and in the bedroom. She wanted to look good in clothes and out of them.”

Rating: ****/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Simon and Schuster.

purchase at Amazon: Almost Famous Women: Stories

Shop Indie Bookstores

, ,

Leave a comment

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: