Sarah Weinman (ed): Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives


With publication dates from 1943 to 1983 and a range of names most of us have never heard of (Nedra Tyre, Helen Nielsen, Celia Fremlin) as well as a couple of big names (Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson) this collection celebrates the women who ruled over the domestic suspense genre during the mid-twentieth century. Their subjects are traditional ones: relationships with children, parents, husbands and lovers, the spoken or unspoken limits on a woman’s world, and the vulnerability of women that can curdle into violence.

Patricia Highsmith’s first published short story about a meek young nanny with a disturbing need to be loved gives you the authentic Highsmith creeps, and I loved Shirley Jackson’s offbeat tale of a young girl who runs away from home and comes back a few years later to a surprising reception. There’s a story about a mink coat and one about a magnificent hand-woven purple shroud.  The forgotten Nedra Tyre (who stored books in the oven) published 6 crime novels and more than 40 short stories within twenty years. Her story A Nice Place To Stay hits quietly, but hard.  Some of the stories disappoint or feel dated, but this is a really enjoyable and interesting collection. I enjoyed the introduction too, where Sarah Weinman traces the history of crime fiction from the second World War, when pulp fiction (mostly male writers) gradually gave way to magazines for a mainstream middlebrow audience. Woman began to find a place, and even to make a living, writing for the mystery magazines. It’s ironic, as Weinman says, that women like this, as talented and serious as their male counterparts, fell off the map as feminism gathered force.

5 thoughts on “Sarah Weinman (ed): Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

    1. Those were the standouts for me, but there are others you’d enjoy. I now own this book which originally I had from the library because my water bottle leaked all over it, and I had to buy it!

  1. “Some of the stories disappoint or feel dated”, could that be because our roles have changed drastically? A lot of women are the major bread winners of the family. A lot of women never have a family.

    1. Yes, things have changed for the better – that’s what makes it so disappointing that many of these women, who wrote for a living and had a name for their writing, have been forgotten while many men of the same calibre, or not as good, have been remembered.

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