Young Woman in a Garden: Stories

Selected as one of Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year and recipient of 2 starred reviews.

Read a story: “Miss Carstairs and the Merman” · “Nanny Peters and the Feathery Bride

A long anticipated first collection of fabulous stories with ghosts, fairies, artists, and even a merman.

In her vivid and sly, gentle and wise long anticipated first collection, Delia Sherman takes seemingly insignificant moments in the lives of artists or sailors—the light out a window, the two strokes it takes to turn a small boat—and finds the ghosts haunting them, the magic surrounding them. Here are the lives that make up larger histories, here are tricksters and gardeners, faeries and musicians, all glittering and sparkling, finding beauty and hope and always unexpected, a touch of wild magic.


“Real magic, right next door, indeed; each of the 14 stories in Young Woman in a Garden deals with some version of that equation, and it’s a testament to Sherman’s award-winning knack for fabulism that she pulls off such impossibilities with whimsy, dazzle and heart — not to mention a sharp edge of darkness.”
— Jason Heller, NPR

* “Lightly flecked with fantasy and anchored in vividly detailed settings, the 14 stories in Sherman’s first collection are distinguished by their depictions of determined women who challenge gender roles in order to make their way in the world. In “The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor,” a servant girl parlays her acquaintance with an ancestral ghost into a professional relationship with the descendant whose house it haunts. The title story toggles between present and past as an art history student researching the life of an Impressionist painter unravels the hitherto unknown role his model played in the creation of his art. Although Sherman (The Porcelain Dove) grapples with serious themes, she leavens a number of her tales with gentle humor, notably “Walpurgis Afternoon,” in which a pair of lesbian witches comically discompose an ordinary suburban neighborhood when their Victorian estate springs up in a vacant lot overnight. Readers who enjoy sophisticated modern fantasy fiction, both light and dark, will greatly admire Sherman’s skill with a variety of narrative forms and the gentle touch of her magic wand.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

* “In this first collection from Sherman (The Porcelain Dove; The Freedom Maze), what seems ordinary consistently veers into the extraordinary and often downright surprising. . . . Ranging in length and style, these tales are captivating and odd, with characters and settings fully and memorably fleshed out.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Praise for Sherman’s previous books:

“Multilayered, compassionate and thought-provoking.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Fantastic in every sense of the word, Sherman’s (Through a Brazen Mirror) second novel is a skillfully crafted fairy tale that owes as much to E.T.A. Hoffman as to Charles Perrault. . . . The Porcelain Dove is no dainty vertu but a seductive, sinister bird with razored feathers.”—Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

“Young Woman in a Garden”
“The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor”
“The Red Piano”
“La Fée Verte”
“Walpurgis Afternoon”
“The Parwat Ruby”
“The Fairy Cony-Catcher”
“Sacred Harp”
“The Printer’s Daughter”
“Nanny Peters and the Feathery Bride”
“Miss Carstairs and the Merman”
“The Maid on the Shore”
“The Fiddler of Bayou Teche”
“Land’s End”

Delia Sherman was born in Japan and raised in New York City. Her work has appeared most recently in the anthologies Naked City, Steampunk!, and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. She is the author of six novels including The Porcelain Dove (a New York Times Notable Book), The Freedom Maze, and Changeling, and has received the Mythopoeic and Norton awards. She lives in New York City.

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