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The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits

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3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,327 ratings  ·  135 reviews
Emma Donoghue, celebrated author of Slammerskin, vividly animates hidden scraps of the past in this remarkable collection. An engraving of a woman giving birth to rabbits, a plague ballad, theological pamphlets, and an articulated skeleton are ingeniously fleshed out into rollicking tales. Whether she's spinning the tale of a soldier tricked into marrying a dowdy spinster, ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 6th 2002 by Virago (first published May 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  1,327 ratings  ·  135 reviews


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Karen ⊰✿
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: towerteamsvi
Emma Donoghue spent years collecting strange facts, anecdotes, stories, poems and songs from over the centuries in England. In this book she takes one of these per chapter and creates a short story around it based on the historical evidence and her own imagination.
There are some pretty wild and wacky tales as the book title attests to! At the end of each chapter she also gives the source material she used.
Donoghue is probably best known these days for writing “Room”, but most of her work is hist
...more
sara
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Shoutout to my fellow virgo, Pucca, for getting me this wonderful, wonderful book.

The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits is a short story collection based on various, interesting history facts from England and Ireland. From cross-dressing contesses to desperate hoaxes, this book is pouring life into fun facts that might have came into your life, bring a passing smile on your face and then disappear forever from your mind. From amusing, little reminiscenses to goose-bumping fervour, this book stand
...more
Alena
Jun 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My reasons for liking so many of Emma Donoghue's books are summed up quite nicely by the author herself in the introduction to this short story collection:
"I have often stumbled over a scrap of history so fascinating that I has to stop whatever I was doing to write a story about it. My sources are the last seven hundred years of British and Irish life ... So this book is what I have to show for ten years of sporadic grave-robbing, ferreting out forgotten puzzles and peculiar incidents ..."
and m
...more
Julai
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading Room, I had to go back and remind myself just how much Emma Donoghue's prose has changed direction, and this little book of medieval-inspired tales certainly couldn't be any farther from her recent "ripped from today's headlines" novel.

The title tale concerns the first in a rash of 14th century women to pretend to give birth to rabbits, mostly seeking to exhibit themselves in order to escape starvation. And in my expert opinion, you'd have to be pretty hungry to stuff a bunny up y
...more
Amy Norris
This short story collection had a great concept and was written by a great author but to be honest it was completely boring and forgettable. Not one story sticks out to me as worth mentioning and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Heather(Gibby)
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful collection of short stories which are all based on snippets the author found while doing research for other novels. There is a little bit of fact or at least folklore in each of these stories, and they are a fascinating collection of historical fiction.
Pixie Dust
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more I read of Donoghue, the more I am convinced she is a ventriloquist of sorts. In the short stories collected in this book, she gives voice to a whole host of period characters that she had researched and embellished, switching register and tone with graceful ease. Selecting one interesting or defining moment in their lives, she weaves compelling tales about these figures of the past – some more well-known than others.

Most of her stories in this collection are set in eighteenth century E
...more
Carly
3.5 stars. Truly fascinating premise for a collection of short stories. The execution could've been better, however. I still really enjoyed it.

Stand-outs: "The Last Rabbit"; "Cured"; "Figures of Speech"
Kathleen
I'm a fan of Emma Donoghue. She wrote Kissing the Witch, a book of female-centric fairy tale retellings that came around at just the right time for baby lesbian me (not that I figured that out for like eight more years but you know), and which I still love, after my friend Isana directed me back to it (thanks Isana!). She wrote Astray, which I loved too, and The Wonder, which I reviewed a little while ago. I got to meet her in person at this year's National Book Festival, at which I sincerely ho ...more
Emily
Dec 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mixed bag of short stories based on 18-19th-c (with a smattering of other eras) british history. Since many of the stories are in the first person, one if the treats of the book is figuring out who and when before you get to the endnotes.

The stories themselves range from okay to wonderful. Stories such as "Revelations," "Words for Things," The Necessity of Burning," and "Looking for Petronilla" are well-paced page-turners. Others fell a bit flat. The most disappointing (perhaps because it had
...more
Jacob
Feb 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2005-2010
Okay, I admit it: I got this one because of the title. Seemed quirky enough. In this collection, Emma Donoghue fleshed out seventeen stories about real, but obscure and nearly forgotten, people and events from several centuries of British history: the woman in the title story, Mary Toft, managed to convince the 18th century medical profession (albeit briefly) that she had given birth to a vast number of rabbits; in the 1850s and 60s, Dr. Isaac Baker Brown used clitoridectomies as a way to “cure” ...more
Shaindel
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emma Donoghue is a fabulous author. I'm not normally a fan of historical fiction because a lot of it tends to be cheesy/romance sort of stuff, but Donoghue has a Ph.D. specializing in 18th Century British literature and history, and her work is always spot on and fascinating!

In _The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits_, Donoghue takes actual historical figures and expands on their stories, writing speculative short fiction about their lives. For instance, she writes a story about a girl who was a ch
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jan 03, 2009 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, own
This was one of the books I speed-dated to try to weed my to-read list a bit. I would rate this as just not for me - it reminds me of another Donoghue book I tried to read once, Slammerkin, which received that same verdict. I just don't like the forced period writing, it feels too inauthentic the way she does it. I liked Room very much and would still try a future novel, but these stories will be passed on elsewhere. ...more
Kristen (belles_bookshelves)
"Words have always been my undoing."

It's so weird that I had seen a piece on this woman on Mysteries at the Museum, then he next day came across a book with a story about the same legend.

A group of short stories all centered around one central theme: women who may or may not have been real, and stories that may or may not be true She writes stories around them and tries to explain the circumstances about the event. They're all really interesting and it was cool to learn about periods of time or
...more
Elaine Ruth Boe
These stories were so inventive! Donoghue takes small historical tidbits, like an old song about the plague or a story about a miniature child, and gives the story voice. She makes these forgotten historical notes worthy of consideration and sympathy. Some of the stories are first person, some letters, some omniscient. Donoghue's range was impressive. I loved that she ended each story with a note on where she got her historical information. While many of the stories were dark and rather disturbi ...more
Lily C
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emma Donoghue never disappoints. There is a delightful breadth to this collection of historically-inspired tales: some reminded me of her historical novel "The Wonder," while some had a different feel that reminded me of another of my favorite short story collections, "Almost Famous Women" by Megan Mayhew Bergman. Some tales are tragic, some are life-affirming, and the last ends on a spine-tingling note. All are powerful.
Sara G
This is a decent collection of short stories about obscure bits of English and Irish history, mainly fleshing out the stories of women who have been forgotten to recorded history. Most are set in the 18th and 19th century, but there are some medieval stories here as well. The stories are pretty uneven - some of them were boring and others (specifically Words for Things and The Necessity of Burning) were fantastic. As always, I love Emma Donoghue's writing.
Jen Grogan
I'm tagging this as historical fiction because, much like another of Donoghue's short story collections, Astray, each of these stories is rooted in the lives and events of actual documented history. I love the way she does this, and there are some real gems in this collection, but on the whole I didn't find it quite as compelling as Astray.
Kristy
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, 3.5 stars...close to 4. I actually really liked this collection of short stories based on historical fragments from the 14th- 19th centuries. There were a few that didn't hold my interest at all and a few I found very good...most fell in the middle. I liked the inclusion of the historical notes at the end of each piece.
Katia M. Davis
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightful collection of short stories. I loved Emma Donoghue's expressive style and the seeming ease with which she avoided any sense of cliche. Drawn from snippets of historical information and brought to life, these stories sometimes deal with dark and sinister things, yet are also funny and poignant. If you like short and meaningful reads, this is a great book to pick up.
Dani
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-and-own
I loved the premise for this book stories all surrounded quirky old English history, however I didn’t love the actual stories. I didn’t not like them either. I am glad I read the book, but these stories didn’t make me feel anything special or stick with me after I was done reading them like great short stories do. I would have given this book a 3.5 if able. Enjoyable read but nothing special.
Jeanette
A book of short stories based on historical records. Some were very intriguing. Particularly the last story. The woman who have birth to rabbits was the first story and was actually one of my least liked story of the book.
Moira
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know I’ve written before that I don’t really like short stories, but I loved this collection. Historical fiction accounts of women in Ireland and UK that we’re perfectly sized and differed so much from one to another.
Melissandre
I think Emma Donoghue is a good writer, however, I really struggled to connect with most of the stories, the characters and their overall premises. I also thought, given the title, the stories would be more mythical and magical than they turned out to be.
Ramona Jennex
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting collection of imaginative short stories based on historical/scholarly tidbits about women. This book appealed to me as breathed life into long forgotten women and captured a glimpse of a British/Irish life in the 1700/1800’s.
Jessie Seymour
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
Kinda disturbing at times, but also really informative. If you're interested in history and want to read some unconventional historical short stories you would probably like this.
I'm disturbed but I also liked this more than a lot of books I've had to read for school.
Helen Murray
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: neo-victorianism
Interesting fictional re-imaginings of strange and intriguing folk tales of women in history. The short stories work best for those marginal figures whose lives and stories are half-known, elided by the patriarchal shape of history.
Tracey White
This is a strange book based on historical fact and embellished with the authors words. The stories are bizarre, most are set hundreds of years ago, they all verge on the unbelievable and are fascinating.
Allison Ross
Historical fiction in the form of short stories. They were somewhat uneven, but I enjoyed many of the stories and am glad I read this book.
Mary Dayhoff
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stories about women you never heard of but are part of history. Donoghue is able to give a different voice to each woman she writes about.
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9,273 followers
Grew up in Ireland, 20s in England doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature, since then in Canada. Best known for my novel, film and play ROOM, also other contemporary and historical novels and short stories, non-fiction, theatre and middle-grade novels.

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