Cranky Ladies of History is an anthology containing 22 fictional snapshots of the lives and deeds of exactly what it says on the cover – ladies who refused, whether for good or ill, to conform and live within the confines of the roles set for them by society and found their names echoing through the ages for it.
Inside we have women from around the world: royalty, criminals, nuns, spies, warriors and more – some I’d heard of but many of whom were entirely new to me, while most of the writers were new to me. Some of the stories were excellent, some I could barely remember moments after finishing them, but I now have a list of both fascinating historical women and new writers for me to look up more from.
A third of the book’s contents were really rather excellent, and the stories I enjoyed the most were the fantastic Little Battles in which an elderly Eleanor of Aquitaine gets waylaid whilst escorting her granddaughter to the French Court; Granuaile in which Grace O’Malley, pirate queen, comes up against a powerful supernatural being; The Dragon, The Terror, The Sea in which Ching Shih, The Terror of the South Seas, tries to fight the flood of British opium; Look How Cold My Hands Are in which Erzsebet Bathory’s crimes finally catch up with her; The Company of Women in which Lady Godiva takes a stroll; and The Lioness in which Jeanne de Clisson commits acts of piracy in revenge against the French King for beheading her husband. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the lady pirates who really whet my appetite for more so I will now definitely be hunting down any more books that I can about them.
Averaging out the scores for each story, the book gets a solid 3 overall. But it really does contain some absolute gems, and I’d recommend this to anyone needing an injection of fabulous, feisty, lost-all-my-fucks women into their lives.