The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

And so I’ve finally been indoctrinated into the society of Angela Carter fans. And yes, I’d certainly call myself a fan after finishing The Bloody Chamber and Other Adult Tales, an amazing collection of retellings of some classic folk and fairy tales along with a few original pieces that draw off of common myths. From page one of this collection, in the title story, I was hooked. I was hooked by Angela Carter’s haunting and alluring prose that draws the reader in, spins an amazing tale, speaks volumes on things that matter, and entertains, excites, horrifies, and moves all along.

THIS is what I want my books to be. I want them to mean something, I want them to entertain me, I want them to move me, I want to get lost in them, I want to feel them. And most books I read do. But I have to say that a collection of folk tales hasn’t made me love the fantasy/fairy tale genre so much in a long time as much as this one has. Here we have retellings of the tale of Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, The Erlking, and The Snow Child among others. But it’s Carter’s own take on the tales that makes them uniquely hers. It’s often a dark and sinister take. They are very much tales for adults. They are not tales to read your children at bedtime. But what they all feature are strong female characters.

One thing I notice is that Carter does a fantastic job juxtaposing in these tales what society has traditionally shown women to be in these tales versus the strength that women have. Her female character are often initially portrayed as weak, damsel in distress women who are the subject of cruelty by men or who have little power in the dynamics presented. But what I loved about this collection is the strength that her female characters ultimately show. And that strength never comes from a supernatural power, it is a power that is innate. A power that is their own. It’s a beautiful thing, the power of the heart, the power of conviction, the power of the body, the power of the mind. And Carter expertly channels those things through her writing.

I’m going to keep this review short because I don’t want to go into the individual stories. I think they’re something that should be read and experienced blindly. Each is familiar in a skeletal way until Carter shatters that skeleton in an ingenious way with her own spin on the tale. But you’ll recognize the story immediately when it’s time for you to. Some of the most moving stories are only a few pages long. But then again, it’s hard to compare individual stories when they’re all phenomenal. Literally, there wasn’t a story in this collection that I didn’t enjoy, though I did have favorites, “The Bloody Chamber”, “The Snow Child”, “The Company of Wolves” and “Wolf Alice” being my favorites. Though truly I could keep adding to that list.

Why is it that all of my favorite books always seem to come from the library? I so wish I could put this one onto my permanent shelves….

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12 Responses

  1. Angela Carter is amazing! I’m so glad you enjoyed your first book by her! Now get Wise Children. You can thank me later. 😉

  2. Glad to hear you like her too. I haven’t read this one but I shall look out for it. LOL, most of my favourite reads come from the library too.

  3. Oh, I can’t wait until I have the time to devote to this one. I don’t think I’ve gotten any further than when we last talked about it…I’ll probably just start over. I can’t remember if I told you, Annie had to read The Werewolf in her children’s lit class last fall, and she totally loved it…in fact she chose it as one of her essay assignments. This was a really fabulous review, Chris…you so have me wanting to shut out the world and lose myself in this book.

  4. I want to try something by Carter after all the talk about her, but I don’t know where to begin. I know I don’t want to start with a story collection because those are always hard for me, but I don’t know what else to try…

  5. it’s always good to hear that you like the book you purchased! I know you are easily pleased.. more people should be like you.

  6. What a great review, Chris. You made me want to read this NOW. Fortunately, my library has a copy, so I’ll be able to get to it at some point. (Soon, I hope!)

  7. Sounds like you really loved it! I have to say, I really like the cover illustration on this edition.

  8. Oh I totally hate it when I get a book from the library only to realize that I want it on MY shelf. I do this pouty lil’ thing.

  9. I just bought an omnibus edition of Ms. Carter’s stories at a used book shop. You’ll have to keep an eye out for one youself. Her work has been around for a while, so I see her books at used book shops regularly.

  10. I’m so happy you finally got to this. Like you I fell in love with this collection and with Angela Carter because of it. I have reread the entire thing twice and various stories many more times than that. Some I’ve read aloud to Mary as well. And, oddly enough, I was just thinking about it the other night and wondering if I should give it another read. I picked up the little paperback copy of the book, which is quite nice, and not too expensive. You should add it to your collection, it is a book that begs to be re-read. Like Terri Windling, for example, Carter just seems to ‘get it’ when it comes to the depth and magic in fairy/folk tales. There are many authors who do retellings or reworkings and few can do with as much depth as these two.

  11. Oh I loved this one too! Bit darker than my usual reading, but oh so entrancing! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  12. I love Angela Carter! This is all I have read by her, but I really want to read more. The library has nothing, so will have to buy at some point!

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