Almost Famous Women


Almost Famous Women

From the acclaimed author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, a dazzling new collection that explores the lives of unforgettable women in history.

The fascinating characters in Megan Mayhew Bergman’s new stories are defined by their creative impulses, fierce independence, and sometimes reckless decisions. In “The Siege at Whale Cay,” cross-dressing Standard Oil heiress Joe Carstairs seduces Marlene Dietrich. In “A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch,” aviator and writer Beryl Markham lives alone in Nairobi and engages in a battle of wills with a stallion. In “Hell-Diving Women,” the first integrated, all-girl swing band sparks a violent reaction in North Carolina.

Other heroines, born in proximity to the spotlight, struggle to distinguish themselves: Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s wild niece, Dolly; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s talented sister, Norma; James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia.

Almost Famous Women offers and elegant and intimate look at artists who desired recognition. The world wasn’t always kind to the women who star in these stories, but through Mayhew Bergman’s stunning imagination, they receive the attention they deserve.
  • Scribner | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476786568 | 
  • January 2015
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Almost Famous Women includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In this collection of brilliantly written and cleverly imagined stories, Megan Mayhew Bergman brings to life women who have become footnotes in history. Fiercely independent, frequently eccentric, they are women who chose unconventional paths and achieved fame, however briefly. The stories in Almost Famous Women explore the choices these women made and the costs of their bravery and recklessness.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In “The Pretty, Grown-Together Children,” how is Daisy’s insistence that she narrate the story and Violet’s acquiescence representative of the sisters’ relationship?

2. Discuss Georgie’s perception of her relationship with Joe Carstairs in “The Siege at Whale Cay.” In what ways does Marlene’s visit cast doubts? Given Georgie’s understanding that “life with Joe never lasts” (p. 33), why does she remain on Whale Cay? What do you imagine Georgie’s future holds?

3. Why is Norma, of “Norma MillayR see more

More Books from this Author

Birds of a Lesser Paradise

About the Author

Megan Mayhew Bergman
Bo Bergman

Megan Mayhew Bergman

Megan Mayhew Bergman is the author of Almost Famous Women and Birds of a Lesser Paradise. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South, McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Oxford American, among other publications. She lives on a small farm in Vermont with her veterinarian husband, two daughters, and many animals.