Review: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my introduction to Kelly Barnhill's work. I've been wanting to read The Girl Who Drank the Moon for a while, even more so after my friend Arlene raved about it last fall. Barnhill has created a collection of diverse short stories, a novelette, and the eponymous "story" which is actually like a collection of flash fiction shorts about some very, very dreadful young ladies, all tied together by their focus on female central characters.

From the very first story, Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch, Barnhill had me hooked. Coming on the heels of the popularity of the film The Shape of Water, it's no big stretch, but the charm of Mrs Sorenson, née Dryleesker, rings through every page. Open the Door and the Light Pours Through was an based in part on an epistolary format, something I don't usually enjoy unless very well done, but it is an enjoyable read. Dead Boy's Last Poem is brief but... fiery. The Dreadful Young Ladies of the title are short flash fiction sort of vignettes of young women of varying degrees of dreadfulness but some, like Annabelle, are quite humorous. The Taxidermist's Wife and Elegy to Gabrielle, Patron Saint of Healers, Whores and Righteous Thieves are both beautiful stories, the former with a tinge, at least for me, of growing edginess. Notes on the Death of Ronia Drake dives deep into stepmother horror. The Insect and the Astronomer is a tale of a witty, Latin-speaking shield bug and an astronomer with a collection of automatons named Angel#1- #19. I shed tears at the end of this one. Finally, we have what I estimated to be a novelette length story, The Unlicensed Magician, witty with its series of progressing passages that are successively Now, Now, and Now, yet again, plus an amusing cast of characters (some of the names made me laugh).

All in all, this is a nice collection of the author's shorter works and certainly makes me want to read her novels.

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