A collection of short stories.
In "Two Old Women", a woman summons her long-dead husband and traps his ghost in her home. He lives soundless yet peacefully in her home, eating her carefully prepared meals and doing household chores. But the sea is displeased at being cheated of its rightful prey, and takes its revenge. The sensory details are dense and fantastic here, the language a wonderful mix of otherworldly and earthy.
Can't say I really liked "Portrait, With Flames," in which a teenager tries to reinvent herself but ends up catching the eye of some sort of flaming magical creature. I didn't get what happened in the end--is Shadow the new flame creature, or is she dead and the flame creature is seeking another victim, just as it did last time?
"Monkey Day" rubbed me the wrong way. It sets a saintly old priest, who has a benevolent yet humble smile for everyone, against a humorless spinster atheist teacher. In the middle is an imaginative little boy fascinated by monkeys. And of course, it ends with the teacher being wrong, narrow minded and a terrible educator.
"Calamari Curls" is one of those Cthulhu stories that every sf/f writer writes at some point, for no reason that I can discern. The tone of the tale is inconsistent--it starts out like the detailed story of the owner of a little bistro being outmaneuvered by a new restaurant, then turns into classic Cthulhu horror, and then is humor for the last few pages? I don't get it.
"Katherine's Story" is the star of the book, to my mind. Katherine is raised on pretentions and hopes, then marries as quickly as possible to escape her mother's overbearing influence. The man, and the marriage, aren't what she'd hoped for, and she finds herself living uncomfortably with her in-laws in a town without books or music. And then her child is born with spastic paralysis, and Katherine is the only one who refuses to institutionalize her. In only 15 pages, Baker draws Katherine into a fully-fledged woman whose mind I felt I knew intimately.
In "Oh, False Young Man!" a spurned woman spends years becoming the foremost automaton expert, in order to trick her erstwhile lover into believing her steampunky robot is their bastard child. She thinks she's also tricked the man's daughter into falling in love with the robot, but--surprise twist--the daughter actually knew he was a robot all along and used Madame Rigby and her robot to drive her father to suicide. I was happily going along with the story until the twist. I was hoping Madame Rigby would win! I hadn't been empathizing with the daughter in the least, though I suppose I should have been. It was a clever twist, but emotionally it didn't satisfy.
"So This Guy Walks Into a Lighthouse" isn't much of a story. Well written, but the story and characters are a bit too wacky for my taste.
"Silent Leonard" is great fun. What if Leonardo da Vinci had an accident that destroyed his left arm and left him dependent on an ambitious, none too scrupulous assistant? He might have built war machines and changed the fate of kings, that's what might have happened! Good amount of humor, nice twists on history as we know it.
"The Maid on the Shore" is a novella--100 pages--but I don't know why it exists. The tale itself is fine: a young man joins up with privateers and fights under Harry Morgan in the Caribbean. Morgan's daughter fights beside them, sometimes seeming more like a phoenix of vengeance than a girl. It's well told, I just didn't connect with it. I didn't care if they succeeded in taking the fort and getting gold; I just didn't give a damn about the main character. He was well written, but somehow just not...a character I had any feelings about.
Baker was a great writer, but I don't always appreciate the ideas and characters she liked to play with. Still, I'm glad I read this.