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Almost Famous Women: Stories

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  2,960 ratings  ·  575 reviews
From "a top-notch emerging writer with a crisp and often poetic voice and wily, intelligent humor" (The Boston Globe): a collection of stories that explores the lives of talented, gutsy women throughout history.

The fascinating lives of the characters in Almost Famous Women have mostly been forgotten, but their stories are burning to be told. Now Megan Mayhew Bergman, autho
Hardcover, 239 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Scribner
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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Amalia Gavea
There is currently a plethora of books that aim to bring women whose stories deserve to be more widely known to surface. If you ask me, I think it was about time. However, what makes me apprehensive is the fact that more doesn’t necessarily mean better and when something becomes a ‘’fashion’’, there is always the danger of losing quality and cohesion. This is what I found in this collection. An honest effort that severely lacked in execution and quality. The writer aimed to bring into focus wome ...more
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
“You can fill up your life with ideas and still go home lonely.”
—Janis Joplin

(The epigraph is epic.)

Nearly every story in this dazzling collection is based on a woman who attained some celebrity—she raced speed boats or was a conjoined twin in show business; a reclusive painter of renown; a member of the first all-female, integrated swing band. We see Lord Byron's illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde's troubled niece, Dolly; West With the Night author Beryl Markham; Edna St. Vincent Milla
Twelve of the 13 stories in this collection take up the lives of historical women who are either virtually unknown or only known through association with more famous figures. As Bergman puts it in her author’s note, the stories “are born of fascination with real women whose remarkable lives were reduced to footnotes.”

Some of our ‘almost famous’ heroines are Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s acting sister, Norma; and James Joyce’s u
Diane S ☔
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I will admit to spending quite a bit of time looking up many of the people these stories were written about. All exceedingly well written though, but there were two that really resonated with me. The two about the oldest and the youngest. Romaine remains, after a fully decadent life Romaine is now 93 and housebound. The people who are hired to care for her take advantage of her in many ways. Something about being that elderly and becoming a victim after living a life on virtually her own terms j ...more
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
These are thirteen stories about extraordinary women whose “lives were reduced to footnotes.” My two favorites featured Allegra Byron (Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter) and Butterfly McQueen (an actress who played one of the maids in Gone with the Wind). All of the stories offer an unusual combination of grit and sensitivity. Most feature these women when they’re well past their primes, giving the whole collection a melancholy feel that kept me from wanting to read too many stories at once (th ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
My first reaction to the book was one of an indifferent feeling of laissez faire.

The first note-to-self asked : "and what is the point, exactly?"

What was the purpose of the book, was my question after reading the first few essays. Was it a creative writing class assignment at one point in time?

"Write an essay on the life of any historical female icon, in which you capture the essence of her being, as though she appeared in a dream to you. Capture the person in the personality. Use carte blanch
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this one! I'm usually not a fan of short story collections. For me, they just don't work well together. This book, however, is the exception. I devoured this book, and would've finished it in one setting if I had the time! Each story represents a fictionalized account of an almost famous woman. I was fascinated, intrigued, and interested in reading about these amazing women. Some more impactful than others, but savored each one for what it was. It would be extremely difficult ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a brilliant short story collection. Possibly one of my favourite realist collections (a 4.5/5 if I was allowed) of fictional accounts of women throughout history who have just been on the periphery of fame, shining a light on their wonder, brilliance, quirk and, sometimes unintentionally, daring difference.
I read this one story at a time over several days and weeks. The short stories (not my favorite thing) are about women who have a brush with fame, as the name implies, such as two women known only for being conjoined twins, or a wealthy heiress who had a relationship with Marlena Dietrich, or the sister of Edna St. Vincent Millay, etc. I didn't think these almost famous women were given much background information -- their stories are really just touched upon in these short stories -- and some o ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2015
Extremely well-written and unusual collection of short stories. Each story is based on a different female historical figure who is just outside of the mainstream - Oscar Wilde's niece, Edna St. Vincent Millay's sister, aviatrix Beryl Markham, Standard Oil heiress Joe Carstairs, and so on. The author puts her characters in richly imagined vignettes that have their roots in fact.

I thought this was a very interesting and clever idea. Each of these eccentric heroines will live on in my imagination f
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
This book and I got a bit of a wrong start. I was expecting (looking really forward to) reading about these almost famous women as a nonfiction book. But it turned out to be historical fiction instead. But I prevailed and I actually liked most of the stories since. For instance, we get to know Dolly Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s niece, Butterfly McQueen who was in Gone with the Wind, author Bery Markham, the painter Romaine Remains etc. Some people in the book had I heard of before, some I hadn’t.

But t
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a piece of historical fiction about many overlooked women. I have previously read biographies about some of the women featured in this collection. And because of that, the stories were a bit of a treat.

I enjoyed Bergman's writing style. Especially in her homage to Shirley Jackon's "The Lottery". Also, there are a few surprises in this book. Read closely and you will find them.

In the back of the collection the author put a list of resources that I devoured. Many of the books that Be
Some books are easy to forget. Close the cover; move to the "read" shelf; star-rate appropriately; don't bother to review; start reading another book. That is what I had intended to do with this one but -- not so fast! -- it has been nagging at me.

This collection includes some very interesting stories - interesting enough, I guarantee, to send you to Wikipedia and beyond a few times. The stories range in length from 2 to 40 pages (in the large-print edition) - so there is one to fit any possible

This book was so cool and I love the title. I think the idea of paying homage to almost famous women is a great idea and I really respect the authors efforts in this. I enjoyed all of the stories, although I found that The Lottery, Redux story (as great as it was) didn't really fit with the general vibe of the collection.

My favourite story of the bunch was probably the first one The Pretty, Grown-Together Children, although I thought that all of the stories were very well done. I really apprec
Almost Famous Women is a collection of fictionalized short stories of real women in history “whose remarkable lives have been reduced to footnotes”. I’ll admit, most of these women I hadn’t heard of, but there were a few I had, and almost all I found incredibly fascinating. They were talented, they were strong, and they were independent women who dared to live life the way they wanted to.

Much like Bergman, I am in awe of their stories. So much so that I have looked up a good number and want to
Larry H
Nov 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

"Maybe the world had been bad to its great and unusual women. Maybe there wasn't a worthy place for the female hero to live out her golden years, to be celebrated as the men had been celebrated, to take from that celebration what she needed to survive."

The annals of history—and the literary world—are filled with tales of famous women, those whose names have become common knowledge and in so
Jun 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
I really enjoyed this reading experience. Would love to find other short story collections with this feel.
Many people error into thinking that short stories are easier to compose than a full-length novel. The opposite is actually true as the author has to throw the reader into a character plot and arc which feels like it already began before the book opened. Basically, not everyone is cut out for this type of writing. Luckily, Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of the short story collection, “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” (which I loved); can procure such writing and therefore returns with a new collection ...more
Review posted on A Skeptical Reader.

Almost Famous Women is a collection of stories that revolve around, as the title puts it, ‘almost famous’ women in history. The collection contains some fantastic, solid stories that rocked my imagination but there were certainly a few duds in the mix that left a lot to imagination. Story reviews as follows:

◗ The Pretty, Grown-Together Children - A good opening to the collection. Tragic story of conjoined twins who spent their lives with unrecognized talent.

Chris Blocker
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sa-barer
First off, Bergman is a wonderful story writer. She has a way of shaping stories from the most basic components and making them very much alive. Her stories are intelligent and expressive. Secondly, I love the concept of this book. Here are women we know little or nothing of, women who were “almost famous” because of the men were in the company of, or “almost famous” because they were notable, but just not quite visible enough in a patriarchal society. Here these women are reimagined, given new ...more
This was an unusual mix of short stories ( some only a page or 2) about " almost famous women". Many of the names rang a bell, maybe a sister or a niece of a "famous" person. The author gives us a little glimpse of these women through fictionalized accounts, mostly sad, many tragic but very interesting & in quite a few cases, I want to look up these women & see who they really were....I will be meeting Megan Mayhew Bergman this weekend & I am looking forward to hearing how she came up with this ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Review to come - but wonderful reentry read. want more historical short stories now!
I've been fairly candid about my love/hate relationship with short stories. I want to love them but rarely do ... I tend to be more of a novel sort of girl.

I felt drawn to this collection of stories upon hearing about the fact that each story highlights a woman who gained some sort of fame during their lifetimes. That is right up my alley! And I have to say that I'm amazed by how much I enjoyed this collection. All but one or two stories were FANTASTIC and even those that didn't resonate with me
Erika Robuck
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not since the arrangement of Sylvia Plath’s story collection, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, has an anthology so moved me. While the stories each stand on their own, there is a thread that connects them both thematically and, at times, literally. What is demonstrated over and over again in these long and short pieces are the heartbreaking consequences of the suppression of the powerful, wildish nature of women.

From conjoined twins, to poet’s sisters and orphans, to aged artists, Bergman w
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Yes, I did give this five stars and Margaret Atwood's Dancing Girls four stars! These are short stories of women, "almost famous women" throughout history, and Ms. Bergman has brought them to life in short stories through fictionalized accounts of a small portion of their lives. Imagined conversations, they delight with beautiful writing, these accomplished women, who for many were born before "their time". A small picture and very very small bio accompanies each story. After finishing the book, ...more
Elizabeth A
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2015, stories
I love big books and I cannot lie, so short story collections are not my go-to genre. I'd heard great things about this author, who will be attending Booktopia Vermont this year, and I look forward to meeting her then. I listened to this collection well narrated by Lesa Lockford.

This is a collection of stories about Almost Famous Women. Some are longer pieces, while others are so short that I barely had time to register them before they were over. The one thing I will say about this collection i
This short story collection is about different real-life women with an interesting background or life story. I had heard about the Hilton (conjoined) twins, which is the first story in the collection, and then later I realised that all of the following ones were based on true stories, too. I wish that the brief background that the author gives at the very end of the book would have preceded each story as it would have made it easier to follow.

What happened to me is that I listened to the audio
Davida Chazan
No, this isn’t a book about the 2018 mid-term elections; it is a collection of historical, fictional short stories about real women we probably know nothing about, although some of them carry well-known names. I loved “Almost Famous Women” by Megan Mayhew Bergman when I read it, and I thought now would be a good time to remind people of this lovely collection. (Okay… I’ll admit, the results of the US elections did influence my choice to post about this particular older book review.) You can read ...more
Debra Flores
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Bergman's fictional short stories based on real women who were almost famous. After the first short story, I became so fascinated with the conjoined Hilton sisters, I googled them. Thereafter, I googled each woman before I read the short story.

These stories are not trying to raise awareness to the women that history unjustly forgot. It is not even a celebration of these women. Instead, the stories are about strong women who made tough choices and paid the price for seeking independenc
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Short stories about women I had either never heard of or knew very little of. I did extra research on nearly everyone in this book. There's really no background info so I tried to look them up before getting into their story. Very interesting--I wish the stories had been longer so I could learn more about these fascinating women!
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500 Great Books B...: Almost Famous Women - Megan Mayhew Bergman - Holly 1 14 Mar 18, 2015 05:18PM  

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Megan Mayhew Bergman is the author of Almost Famous Women (January 2015) and Birds of a Lesser Paradise (March 2012) - both from Scribner, and both Indie Next selections. Megan was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and will receive the Garrett Award for Fiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

Megan's work has appeared in the New York Times, Best American Short Stories 2011

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