Wayward Girls and Wicked Women edited by Angela Carter: Review

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“…the title of this collection is, of course, ironic. Very few of the women in these stories are guilty of criminal acts, although all of the have spirit and one or two of them, to my mind, are, or have potential to be, really evil.” So starts Angela Carter’s introduction to Wayward Girls and Wicked Women.

This collection includes a diverse group of women writers of a variety of races and nationalities about women living in a variety of social classes and conditions. There are clever mothers, vivacious prostitutes, determined girls, and abandoned housewives. These aren’t evil women but women who live outside the norms of their societies. A lot of these stories wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, but that’s not the fault of the characters or the writers. These are women who live in a man’s world after all. Some of the stories are told from a male point of view, but most are from women.

In Collette’s Rainy Moon, a woman gets back at her ex with witchcraft, Bessie Head’s Life tells of a prostitute who decides to settle down, Djuna Barnes’s The Earth has sisters fighting over land, and the clever mother in Elizabeth Jolley’s The Last Crop outwits a doctor. Angela Carter herself contributed one of her wicked fairy tales to the collection: The Loves of Lady Purple. It’s a twist on Pinocchio, only this puppet awakens with disastrous consequences for its male creator. I haven’t read a Carter story yet that works out for the dude.

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Every Angela Carter story ending.

There are two stories that stand out for me in the book. The first is from The Gloria Stories by Rocky Gamez. In it the unnamed protagonist moves away but receives letters of home from Gloria. Gloria is quite a woman- “she wanted to be a man.” She dresses like one, acts like one, drives a fast car, and womanizes as much as any guy. Until she meets Rosita. Gloria declares in one letter that she will marry Rosita. When the protagonist comes home, she finds Gloria convinced that she’s impregnated Rosita and there is no talking her out of it. I would love to read the rest of Gloria’s adventures.

The second story I loved for different reasons. In The Long Trial by Andree Chedid, a poor mother in a small Egyptian village hopes for advice from a holy man. Instead, he tries blessing her with a benediction of “seven more children.” She flips the F out. She’s already got nine kids! This story shows how important birth control is for impoverished women. It got me right in the heart.

For the most part, I enjoyed the stories. There were a few weird ones and I couldn’t make heads or tales of Wedlock by George Egerton since the dialogue was in a dialect. Still, I would definitely recommend Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. There is something for everybody.

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