Title: The Unwanted Women of Surrey
Author: Kaaron Warren
In: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Death, Feminism, Gaslamp, Historical fiction
Dates read: 19th September 2019
Format: Short story
5th sentence, 74th page: We went walking early in the evening.
In a house of unwanted women, the Grey Ladies have decided to make their presence known. But these unwanted wives don’t really know what the cost is going to be… will it be too late when they find out the truth?
This is kind of a strong story. It intertwines death, feminism and the choices we make in life. And it truly asks the question: what is right and what is wrong? Where are the shades of grey? Or in the case of this story, where are the shades of the Grey Ladies? After all, they haunt through this story in an eerily familiar way with each flick of a page.
The mix of a tale about women attempting to find their power and place in the world. the five women in this story are all unwanted by their husbands for one reason or another. In some circumstances, I think that this unwantedness is completely understandable (there was a potential murderer among them). But in others it is just kind of tragic. At the beginning of the story, all of these women are kind of just gliding through life with no real aims or decisions as to where they want to go in the world. By the end, that has changed and there is a sense of purpose and desire in all of their actions.
The use of the cholera outbreak and a mass murder gave this tale an entirely haunting feeling. And one that made you feel a little less comfortable with the decisions that are being made by the unwanted women of surrey. Yet, it also provides a great placement in history as this was a moment that actually happened. And houses provided for married, yet unwanted women was also quite a common occurrence within this time period. The fantastic blend of historical fact, and the fantastical nature of the Grey Ladies completely swept me away.