Angela Carter – The Bloody Chamber

09Apr10

Claire sent me a copy of The Bloody Chamber last month, and I resisted opening it ’til the Angela Carter month kicked off. My previous experience with Angela Carter’s short stories collection wasn’t great, so despite the great things I’ve read about this collection, I was ever so slightly ambivalent about it.

Nonetheless, my fears (if I may call the ambivalence so) were quickly allayed as I lost myself in the title story, The Bloody Chamber – a story that starts in an almost “happily-ever-after” fairytale-esque manner. Yet, a combination of the title and familiarity with Angela Carter’s writing was reason enough to believe that the story would take a gothic turn. And so it did. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the story for even a second though, and it was enough to believe that this collection of short stories would be more enjoyable, less random.

The other stories followed suit; re-vamped fairy tales, re-invented characters, but these stories aren’t just re-told in a different voice. That would be the most unfair assessment of all. These stories are original, picking up on some of the latent themes prevalent in the classic fairytales we’ve known and loved, and improvising on them to create dark depraved tales which delighted and shocked me.

Beauty and the Beast is one of the stories that make an appearance in this collection, and despite being a big fan of the original (who didn’t love the Disney movie?), I was thoroughly wowed by Carter’s more adult version. Abundant with vice and a hint of sexuality, the re-working of this story seemed almost real, while simultaneously being totally fantastical.

While I did love most of the stories in this collection, a couple did leave me feeling indifferent. Puss in Boots was one of them, and annoyingly enough, I can’t really pinpoint what I didn’t really enjoy about it. It just didn’t grab me like the others did. Is that good enough a reason? I don’t know, but, it’s all I’ve got.

It’s a provocative gothic collection, surreal as always (and these are fairy tales, so the surrealism element automatically gets incremented), but totally captivating. I recommend it highly, simply because it takes the safe happy world of fairy tales, and turns it upside down, while teasing you and making you beg for more; be it the re-working of Sleeping Beauty, or the overhauling of Red Riding Hood.

Again, thanks Claire for the giveaway. I’m really happy I won! :)

Have you read any gothic fairy tales? Which ones would you recommend?

PS: I recently finished The Book Of Lost Things which also has fairy-tales twisted and re-told in the narrative. I was very impressed by it as well, and despite Connolly being no Angela Carter, I thoroughly loved it, so it’s something else I’d rate quite highly.

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24 Responses to “Angela Carter – The Bloody Chamber”

  1. 1 Sasha

    I’ve read only one story from this collection–the reworking of the Little Red Riding Hood story–and that was years and years ago. At fourteen, I was struck by how Carter created such a quiet sensuality. It was eerie, a little disquieting, and very addictive. But, well, Carter and I have not reunited since then. [Maybe I can catch up on Angela Carter month?]

    And “Puss in Boots” ‘not grabbing you the way the others did’ is a perfectly good reason for anything. :]

    • Hope you had a chance to catch up during Angela Carter month. You’ve described the experience of reading a Carter story all too well, in that first paragraph!

      I do love Puss In Boots, the Ladybird book, as well as the character in Shrek. Slightly disappointed that I didn’t get on with it quite so well in the collection of short stories.

  2. 3 Aimee

    While I love Angela Carter, I didn’t enjoy John Connelly’s book of lost things…the writing was not interesting enough for me, I’m afraid. I did however appreciate his fairytale characetr concepts, like how red riding hood sleeping with the wolf spawned werewolves etc

    • Thing with Book of Lost Things is, it’s dark but not extremely dark. There were parts of it which dragged on for me, but I thought Connolly had taken an interesting premise and built a great story around it.

  3. “Puss-in-Boots” is one that never grabs me either; in fact, normally when I pick up my copy to reread a story here and there, I usually bypass that one.

    “The Company of Wolves” and “The Bloody Chamber” are my favourites and I grow and grow to enjoy and appreciate the others each time, especially “The Snow Child”, which I think it’s perfect despite its brevity.

    I thoroughly agree that these tales aren’t simply retellings but original and subversive revisions that are faithful to the latent themes existing in the earliest forms of the tales (Carter translated Charles Perrault’s fairy tales so was very familiar with them and worked extensively with fairy tale themes and elements).

    • Thank god for solidarity!!

      The Snow Child was one that did have me stunned, with its ending. So wasn’t what I was expecting. I was open-mouthed for a while – surprised a fly didn’t get in! Exaggerating, but you know what I mean…

  4. 7 JoAnn

    Great review! I hope to read a couple of her stories this weekend and post for Short Story Monday.

  5. I read some of these short stories in college in one of our short story courses and I remember the one about Red Riding Hood and I liked it. Thanks for this great review!

  6. This is one of my all-time favourite short story collections. I’m so glad you loved it too! The Book of Lost Things was another one I loved. For more dark, beautifully written fairy tales (and not just) I’d recommend both Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors and Margo Lanagan’s Black Juice.

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Nymeth. Both go straight on the TBR – this is almost a new “genre” for me, and so far, I’m completely hooked.

  7. I won this too and now can’t wait to read it! I am currently reading Wise Children but I want to get both read this month or I’ll never get around to them! Great review – I look forward to seeing how my reactions compare.

    • Not sure if you’ve read this yet or not, but as I go through my Google Reader I will find out :)

      Hope you enjoy(ed) it, and looking forward to your thoughts on it. I haven’t read Wise Children yet, but will keep an eye out for that as well, over at yours.

  8. She’s kind of amazing, isn’t she? :-)

  9. 17 mee

    I’m actually reading this book at this moment. I’ve read The Bloody Chamber and am now into The Tiger’s Bride (I’m not reading in order). So far so good!

    • I read them in order (I normally like doing things in order – weird like that!), and thoroughly enjoyed them. Hope you loved them all as well.

  10. Have you read Wise Children? I think that is her best work

    thanks for sharing

    Hannah

    • Thanks for commenting, Hannah.

      I haven’t read Wise Children yet, but definitely intend to, in due course of time. I only discovered her last year, and so far, it’s been an incredible journey.

  11. 21 Sarah

    I have Wise Children, so I’m glad to see Hannah’s recommendation. Problem is, having read your fabulous review of The Bloody Chamber that is the one that I will want to read next… Grass is greener and all that.

    Additional gothic fairytales? Outer Dark, by Cormac McCarthy. Though I don’t think I have heard anyone else describe it that way…

  12. 22 Vita

    Angela Carter just kills me with her prose…. ahhh. It’s witty and verbose, and playful and puzzling….just love her writing…


  1. 1 Carter Collation and Readathon | Paperback Reader
  2. 2 Bookie Mee | The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

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