“The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits” is an historian’s story collection: in these thirteen tales, Donoghue brings to life some odd and often touching moments in British and Irish history. Some of the stories are about famous figures–John Ruskin’s passionless wedding night, Mary Wollstonecraft’s ill-fated turn as a governess–but most are little-known or anonymous, like a medieval ale-wife in an age of peasant rebellions or the dwarf child who dies far from home while on public display. This is the territory of social history, the forgotten lives documented only in census tracts and brief newspaper stories, breathed into vivid life again through skillful and imaginative reconstructions.The stories are carefully researched, and Donoghue provides a brief discussion of her sources at the end of each. For even the briefest tales, she draws on two or more studies and primary sources, providing a solid base of fact to the fancy she spins.And there are some fanciful and playful turns to these stories. Donoghue inhabits the minds of her characters and gives voice to the inner lives that history cannot record. Unlike many popular historians, though, who make unfounded leaps into worlds that cannot be known, Donoghue earns her fancy through both solid research and strong writing. These stories are not afraid to play with form and structure and voice, experimenting with ballads, accounting lists, and reportage. This is a collection that’s neither fact nor fiction, fish nor fowl, but a wonderful chimera that can swim and fly in either realm.