BENDING TO EARTH: Strange Stories by Irish Women, Edited by Maria Giakaniki & Brian J Showers, Swan River Press 2019
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Bending to Earth is a surprising, extraordinary anthology featuring twelve uncanny and supernatural stories from the nineteenth century , the authors of which are all Irish and all female. Some of the writers are well known, others rather obscure. Some have tried their hand at dark fiction only occasionally, others were established craftswomen in that genre. The profile and the literary work of the included authors are perfectly outlined in the exhaustive, excellent Introduction to the volume by editors Maria Giakaniki and Brian J Showers. I’ve found the large majority of the tales of superior quality, which cannot apply to many of the currently published genre anthologies. “The Dark Lady” by Anna Maria Hall is a gentle ghost story where a stern, elderly gentleman gets finally mollified by the appearance of a female spirit, while “The Woman with the Hood” by LT Meade is a very traditional, but quite delightful ghostly tale featuring a young girl haunted by a mysterious nocturnal apparition. In Ethna Carbery’s melancholic “ The Wee Gray Woman” a man is tortured by remorse for the fate of an innocent young girl, and in Rosa Mulholland’s engrossing “ Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time” love is sadly denied and witchcraft goes wrong. “The Blanket Fiend” by Beatrice Grimshaw is a vivid tale of exotic horror set in New Guinea depicting the unnamed, hungry horror lurking in the waters of a wild pool. Katharine Tynan contributes “ The First Wife”, a perceptive supernatural story portraying a woman cleverly managing to delete (almost) all traces of her husband’s deceased first spouse. “ Transmigration” by Dora Sigerson Shorter is an offbeat,powerful piece about soul transference between two men, filled with cruelty ,deception and evil, while “ The Red Woollen Necktie” by BM Croker, is a solid supernatural crime story where a nervous young woman is troubled by the memory of a particularly bad dream. In the superb, insightful ghost story “ A Vanished Hand” by Clotilde Graves a woman dead for fifteen years returns from beyond the grave to visit his former lover to discover, much to her ( and his ) surprise, that love can hardly survive the passing of time. A highly recommended, extremely enjoyable anthology. Since the editors inform us that the selected stories represent only a small portion of much larger material, hopefully, a second volume will follow.