February 15, 2012

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: Review

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Talk about re-imagining fairy tales! Angela Carter takes traditional fairy tales twists them, turns them, and stands them on their heads.

This collection includes the title story plus 9 others. Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty all make appearances, with some werewolves and vampires sprinkled in for good measure. I haven't always liked fairy tale retellings; I couldn't get through My Mother She Killed Me...

As with most short story collections, there were ones I enjoyed and ones I thought were kinda weird. Luckily the ones I didn't care for so much were short.

The title story, The Bloody Chamber, is my favorite. In it a Rebecca-esque heroine marries a much older, wealthy man with a past. Instead of one dead wife, he has three. All having come to a tragic end. That's a bad, bad sign but she marries the guy anyway. After the wedding, the husband whisks her away to his isolated castle. He has an obsession with her virginal state and she finds some old books that make her think he's a super freak.

During the honeymoon, he leaves on business but warns her not to go down into his secret chamber. What happens when you tell someone not to do something? They immediately do the opposite. Since this is a retelling of the Bluebeard story, you can imagine what she finds. I loved the twist that occurs at the conclusion of this one.

In The Lady of the House of Love, a vampiric Sleeping Beauty type with a Miss Havisham streak sits waiting for her dinner to arrive: a young, virginal* soldier. He's completely clueless that he's about to become the main course. There is much angst, the usual for vampires. What I liked about this story is how the lady has the power to give or take a life and the innocent young thing in unknown danger is the man. Of course, I'm rooting for the guy to make it out in one piece. Anyway you look at it, he's not going to stay untouched by darkness for long as he's about to head off into the trenches of World War I.

It's not all serious though. One of the silliest stories is Puss-in-Boots, where a feline Casanova helps his owner knock boots with the young bride of an old man. He comes up with some creative schemes to get guy into the lady's boudoir.

Since I read The Bloody Chamber as part of the Gender in Sci-Fi Challenge, I read it with my mind on gender. Some of the women are clever, some are powerful, some are even a bit bratty. They have the power to tame beasts or are beasts themselves. Grimm's fairy tales make women victims or damsels in distress. In these stories, the women don't have to be victims, because of the actions they take, or their very natures, they change the ending of these tales.

These are grown up fairy tales that deal with human sexuality in a number of the stories. At times, the stories made me uncomfortable, but I believe this was her intention. This didn't take away from my enjoyment of the stories, in fact it gave more to think about. Carter is not afraid to take on the most primal aspects of human nature.

I'm sure much of what I read went right over my head but I enjoyed the majority of the stories just for the stories themselves. Very entertaining.

Recommended

*That seems to be a running theme.

Ratings:


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14 comments :

  1. I read this at Halloween last year and loved it. Now I want to read more Angela Carter.

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  2. I read this book a few years ago, and I really loved it. I have some of her other books on my shelves that I need to hop on already. Glad this one worked well for you.

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  3. I'm not a fairy tale lover, but my sister is - I bet she'd love this book.

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    1. I bet she would too. It's very well done.

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  4. I haven't read any Angela Carter, although I did listen to a short story last year and really enjoyed it. My library has only got one collection but I will get to read it at some stage.

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    1. This was really hard to get and I had to ILL it.

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  5. I've been meaning to read Angela Carter for awhile...she's hard to find in our local bookstores, though, and I never think to order any of her books when I'm at an online bookstore.

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    1. Yes, I had to get it from another library.

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  6. I enjoyed this collection, but it is the only thing I have read by Carter so far...

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    1. I think there is another one of hers at my library. I'll be looking for it.

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  7. I have My Mother She Killed Me, and I've read some of the stories, but not the whole book. I think I liked The Bloody Chamber better because the connections to the original stories were more apparent. With My Mother She Killed Me I was scratching my head a lot, since the stories seemed only tangentially related. It may have helped that Angela Carter picked stories that were more familiar to me, too.

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    1. I think you're right. I also was confused by My Mother and gave up after just a few stories. They weren't for me.

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