Donoghue finds her inspiration for these wry, robust tales in obscure scraps of historical records: an engraving of a woman giving birth to rabbits; a plague ballad; surgical case notes; theological pamphlets; an articulated skeleton. Here kings, surgeons, soldiers, and ladies of leisure rub shoulders with cross-dressers, cult leaders, poisoners, and arsonists.
Whether she's spinning the tale of an Irish soldier tricked into marrying a dowdy spinster, a Victorian surgeon's attempts to improve women, a seventeenth-century countess who ran away to Italy disguised as a man, or an undead murderess returning for the maid she left behind to be executed in her place, Emma Donoghue brings to her stories an elegant, colorful prose filled with unforgettable sights, sounds and smells (Elle
). Here she summons the ghosts of those women who counted for nothing in their own day, but who come to unforgettable life in fiction.