SpoilersI had high expectations for this, Carter s fairy tale retellings are meant to be well known for being feminist, gothic, and original For the most part, I didn t feel that was true Having a few heroines with sexual agency didn t magically make them feminist or ground breaking, it takes a lot than that to modernise a fairy tale There were only a couple of them that I actually found somewhat enjoyable, the rest were rubbish.
Hated the writing, it was convoluted, complicated, and nonsensical There were a number of times I got lost as to what the hell was going on and had to keep re reading sentences over and over to get some clarity Also, some sentences read like paragraphs than sentences, they never bloody ended The stories THE BLOODY CHAMBER.
Quite liked this, but mostly because of the ending where the heroine s mum kills Bluebeard and saves her daughter from death Other than that it was a paint by numbers retelling of Bluebeard THE COURTSHIP OF MR LYON So predictable and cheesy It was a run of the mill Beauty and the Beast retelling complete with flat characters, insta love, and zero depth THE TIGER S BRIDE Another Beauty and the Beast retelling This time Beauty ends up with the Beast because her dad gambles her off like property At the end Beauty turns herself into a beast too so she can be with a guy who forced her to live with him just so he could see her naked Ugh.
PUSS IN BOOTS A shallow manslut gets his cat Puss to hook him up with the rich beautiful virgin he fell in insta love with after seeing her just the once Puss does so, and man gets to shag said virgin, who also happens to be married Puss and the man kill the husband and get to settle down with their virginal women after years of shagging around Yea, it was just a tropey mess and the female characters were rubbish THE ERL KING Only liked the very end of this when the foolish love struck heroine plots to save herself and kill the Erl king, everything else was weird and rubbish THE SNOW CHILD The worst story of the lot, a married Count wishes for a girl as white as snow, red as blood, and black as raven His wish comes true, but his wife is jealous of the magic girl and tries to kill her instead of helping her , girl gets killed by a rose, and husband rapes her dead body And the wife seems to be cool with her husband raping dead bodies Ugh, hated it.
THE LADY OF THE HOUSE OF LOVE This was the most interesting of all the stories Liked the gothic undertones and how atmospheric it was But it read like a paranormal vampire story than a fairy tale THE WEREWOLF I didn t like the girl in this happily causing her werewolf granny s death just so she could inherit her house Where s the feminism in that THE COMPANY OF WOLVES Another story with a girl causing her grandma s death, this time so she can sex up a werewolf guy Ugh, what s with all these female characters being killed by other female characters and dying in horrible ways WOLF ALICE.
Weird Girl thinks she s a wolf, then kind of realises she s not, and then she thinks she s a wolf again Yea, didn t like it.
There were only two stories The Bloody Chamber and The Lady of the House of Love in the collection that I somewhat enjoyed The rest were disappointing, they were either predictable or tropey or plain weird and not in a good way Also, apart from The Bloody Chamber, I didn t find any of the retellings to be feminist in any way I don t know why they ve been praised for their feminism when there was actually very little feminism in them, if anything they were sexist what with most of the female characters actions being controlled influenced by men in some way or another Also, the writing was rubbish.
Angela Carter Was A Storytelling Sorceress, The Literary Godmother Of Such Contemporary Masters Of Supernatural Fiction As Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, J K Rowling, And Kelly Link, Who Introduces This Edition Of Carter S Most Celebrated Book, Published For The Seventy Fifth Anniversary Of Her BirthIn The Bloody Chamber Which Includes The Story That Is The Basis Of Neil Jordan S Movie The Company Of Wolves Carter Spins Subversively Dark And Sensual Versions Of Familiar Fairy Tales And Legends Like Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss In Boots, And Beauty And The Beast, Giving Them Exhilarating New Life In A Style Steeped In The Romantic Trappings Of The Gothic Tradition Hey there Little Red Riding Hood,You sure are looking good.
You re everything a big bad wolf could want.
Listen to me I don t think little big girls shouldGo walking in these spooky old woods alone Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, 1962In The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter s uses a decidedly feminist slant to re tell familiar myths and stories The Company of Wolves, for example, provides a point by point rebuttal of the myths embedded in the modern versions of Little Red Riding Hood Interestingly, the earliest versions of the fairy tale were primarily oral and far risqu These versions included sexual elements such as the wolf actually a werewolf in the oldest versions telling Red Riding Hood to throw her clothes, one by one, into a fire Leeming and Sader 391 Further in these early versions Red Riding Hood tricks the wolf by pretending that she needs to go outside to relieve herself Once outside, Red Riding Hood quickly removes the rope attached to her, ties it to a tree, and escapes Bushi In these original versions, Red Riding Hood outwits the fox, and the sexual overtones are explicit By the time Charles Perrault wrote his version in 1697, the story had been sanitized into a lesson on young girls morality In Perrault s version, the story serves to warn young girls about the threat men pose to their sexual innocence, but does not include the mother s warning to stay on the path, that appears in most later versions such as that of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in 1812 Instead, Perrault ends his tale with an overt moral warning Young ladies in particular, well bred and attractive young ladies should not be beguiled by men s wolfish charm 3 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimms version originally called Little Red Cap , far familiar to American and English audiences than that of Perrault, casts Little Red Riding Hood as a younger girl i.
, even vulnerable and begins with the famous warning W alk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path Predictably, Little Red Riding Hood forgets her mother s warning, strays off the path, and gets deeper and deeper into the wood Once in the woods, Little Red Riding Hood s troubles begin Ultimately, a hunter, who just happens to be passing by, saves her.
Of most significance is the decided shift the fairy tale has undergone through time In the original versions, Little Red Riding Hood saves herself and is never gulled by the wolf In versions dating from the seventeenth century onward, the girl strays from the path, actually believes the wolf might really be granny, and is saved by a huntsman Further, in the Grimms version and its modern variations, Red Riding Hood s comment at the end of the story demonstrates that she has learned her lesson As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so However, the fairy tale s other messages to young women are embedded and destructive We are easily distracted and disobedient we are not safe alone in the woods traveling off the beaten path we are fairly stupid we get ourselves in trouble and we need to be rescued by a man In contrast, Angela Carter s short story, The Company of Wolves, restores the tale s original elements such as the overt sexuality and a heroine who is resourceful rather than helpless but adds a feminist perspective Carter s heroine is strong minded, packs a carving knife in her basket of goodies, and is powerful because of her virginity She stands and moves within the invisible pentacle of her own virginity She is an unbroken egg she is a sealed vessel she has inside her a magic space she is a closed system she does not know how to shiver She has her knife and she is afraid of nothing Further, in Carter s version, Red Riding Hood does not just protect herself, but controls the game The seduction scene plays out like a modern slasher movie As the girl at the wolf s bidding removes each item of clothing and ostensibly becomes and vulnerable, we begin to see her as a victim Just as we become lulled by the predictable script in motion, the girl, now completely naked, responds to the wolf s threat, All the better to eat you with, by bursting into laughter S he knew she was nobody s meat Even given the background Carter provides in the story s beginning, the scene startles We knew the girl was strong, independent, and armed However, the pattern of woman alone traveling alone helpless alone victim is so embedded in our consciousness that we are caught off guard And, that is precisely Carter s point Adapted from a prior publication What an excellent bundle of stories bringing it all back home, fairytales and folklore wise, stripped of their deceptive pop culture whitewash, all blood splattered and primal and sensual and lady teachy I don t know which rose pricked me deeper the blood countess stricken with sudden, self sacrificial hideousness in the eternal sleep of light of day at finding a pure, deserving specimen of love, dropped off to sleep over the cards of destiny that are so fingered, so soiled, so worn by constant shuffling that you can no longer make the image out on any single one of them the image of the haggard yet severe mother riding up all floppy hat and sagely, wild gray hairs, pistol drawn to pierce the not Bluebeard, not Gilles de Rais who cleverly keeps a copy of La Bas right next to the snuff photography in his bedchamber, because meta fic just before he dares attempt to behead her darling, too curious daughter an image which anyone with as fierce, protective, supportive, and profoundly independent a mamabear as mine can relate to ad infinitum the girl who became the tiger for the tiger, full acceptance, literally stripped bare to reveal her anything, everything Beautiful, bombastic prose reclaiming these shadows of childhood for what they were intended to be lessons about what s to come in burgeoning adulthood, subconscious fears embraced, the ways of the ugly world and its horrid beauty What a mind Don t feed your children Disney, feed them this Well, except for W.
D s Robin Hood, that movie is amazing.
An extraordinarily sensual, symbol rich, collection of very adult tales of enchantment, focusing on female protagonists Some are dirtier versions of the familiar, some are barely recognisable beyond title and names, and a couple were unknown to me The Lyon and Tiger stories are variants of each other, and it ends with three relating to wolves, two of which are versions of Little Red Riding Hood.
There is blood in the title, and there are many allusions to literal and metaphorical blood mainly in relation to sacrificial virgins puberty, menstruation, sex and flowers sometimes both, as a deflowered bride ponders The lilies I always associate with him that are white And stain you Power and betrayal are also major themes, aided by the delusion of disguise different skins, and shedding thereof and hence loss of inhibitions and innocence Love often equates to death of some kind It s a feast for all the senses, though it doesn t always leave a pleasant taste However, Carter is a feminist at heart, and this is reflected in many of the tales having female narrators, along with the way she twists and subverts the reader s expectations.
The Bloody ChamberThe longest story is that of Bluebeard, which was a partial inspiration for Jane Eyre see my review HERE , but here is set in modern ish times A much married man takes a new, young, innocent wife She leaves her mother and goes Into marriage, into exile , despite some sinister signs dead or missing wives, yet his waxen face was not lined by experience , her mother s concerns, and her own equivocation when asked if she loves him, she says I m sure I want to marry him Her father had died, leaving a legacy of tears that never quite dried , and she is seduced by an opal ring that may be cursed I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption , and evidently he does too The bedroom scene is disturbing, but not in a graphic way, as is his porn collection, which features disturbingly youthful subjects He wants to flood the bedroom with light, all the better to see you , echoing two versions of Little Red Riding Hood later in the book.
He goes away, leaving her in charge of the household, including all the keys She is instructed to indulge herself as she likes in this lovely prison of which I was both the inmate and the mistress , with a single exception she must never enter the room where he occasionally goes to savour the rare pleasure of imagining myself wifeless Of course, the temptation is enormous view spoiler she looks, finds the bodies of previous wives surrounded by lilies and then can t wash the incriminating blood off the key I had been tricked into my own betrayal His face contained a sombre delirium guilty joy as he slowly ascertained how I had sinned hide spoiler Exquisite His touch both consoles and devastates me I feel my heart pulse, then wither, naked as a stone on the roaring mattress while the lovely, moony night slides through the window to dapple the flanks of this innocent who makes cages to keep the sweet birds in Eat me, drink me thirsty, cankered, goblin ridden, I go back and back to him to have his fingers strip the tattered skin away and clothe me in his dress of water, this garment that drenches me, its slithering odour, its capacity for drowning.
After the rigorous pounding that I got while reading The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hoffman, I certainly wasn t expecting this almost diffident collection of short stories.
Reading the whole collection the sense of Carter s craft is very strong emphasised by having stories like The Courtship of Mr Lyon and The Tiger s Bride which are variants of the same folktale, or the repetition of the same elements such as the magical power of virginity in The Lady of the House of Love and The Company of Wolves although I did wonder what would happen subsequently once the hymen was no longer there It is easy to imagine Carter at her work bench, loosening her vice, critically admiring a piece of finished work before putting it to one side and deciding to do the whole thing again, just twisting it slightly or taking something apart and recombining the elements in a slightly different way.
But I did not have the sense of a writer pushing me towards the limits of my endurance, striking at me with a rationality that was barbed with calculation, sharp with her considered intellect These stories were relaxed for all their sexuality The teapot perched on her workbench for sure had a little crocheted cosy to keep it snugly warm, the collection broadly speaking was safer than I expected from the aforementioned novel As one often has cause to remark it is funny the difference that the absence of giant pan sexual tattooed rapist centaurs makes to a writer s work.
The sexual content seemed admittedly less radical to me than maybe it did at time of publication I think, perhaps I am wrong, that we are generally far aware that the sexually explicit content in popular stories was edited out to create our modern fairy tales, by the brothers Grimm among others, in the nineteenth century while they retained the the violence at least the non sexual violence Carter to my mind is simply returning to the original potentialities of this kind of story Perhaps they weren t necessarily told in quite as an explicit a manner as here, possibly just with a knowing leer, or a wink, but the potential for sexual readings was always there.
The title story, The Bloody Chamber, felt terribly long, as the actress said to the Bishop, and I read the overflowing champagne staining the bride to be s dress as a subtle symbol, until I read the following paragraph which made it absolutely clear that subtle was a word that Carter had removed from her dictionary at least for as long as she was working on this story, although having said that the narrator s reaction to the sense of her own ability to be sexually corrupt and decadent balanced nicely with her husband s fairly straightforward desire to murder his wives, and there is a pleasure in reading a story in which the happy ending is a menage a trois between two women and their skilful fingered blind piano tuner The Lady of the House of Love played out a vampire story almost to the point of Count Duckula comedy with it s plucky Blond Beast of a hero doomed to die a different death, while the last lines respectively of The Erl King and The Tiger s Bride struck me with their brilliance, eerie and savage The Erl King all the so as he is based apparently on Carter s long term lover and eventual final husband, Carter suggests that the transformative nature of a relationship can be such that you can see it as a kind of death, both horrifying, sinister and alluring, seized with open arms, I am struck by how deeply she works over time, on me at least, and got under the skin with some very simple little stories, without fireworks So much so that I hesitate to recommend her.
As a set of stories it was a fairly mixed bag for me, an easy train read, but something that gives me a wider sense of Carter s ability as a creative writer To suggest that she may have been one of the strongest voices from the latter half of twentieth century British literature would be meaningful only if I was widely read Anyway I had taken myself for a walk today round the park, I passed a prim old lady with a wiry dog, no , she said we won t go chasing squirrels today as she pulled on the dog s leash I was very taken by this and a little sad to have not been there on those days when she d fold down her umbrella, put her knitted purple hat in her pocket and run with her wiry dog after squirrels, and dance with anger at the foot of trees Perhaps that wasn t precisely what she meant But it reminded me both of the Lady who loved Animals and the rasp like tongue of our old cat who d lick porridge from my fingers until he learnt to help himself from my bowl view spoiler he was also partial to sour milk and raw dough, he was an odd creature hide spoiler My father lost me to The Beast at cards A recent discussion with Konstantin one of my best friends in Goodreads prompted me to read this collection a little sooner than I had planned And it was an utterly fascinating experience I knew I was going to love it and my expectations were justifiably high 10 exceptional short stories paying homage to classic fairy tales and especially to Charles Perrault From Bluebeard and The Beauty and the Beast to Puss in Boots and The Snow Child written in a unique, sensual, dark languageThe Bloody ChamberIn my opinion, the jewel of the collection This is a story based on Bluebeard , one of my favourite fairy tales because I m weird and I like it Seriously, though, this is a beautiful showcase of Carter s immense talent She inserts elements from the dawning of Gothic Fiction and crafts a perfect story The legend of Dracula, Carmilla, the Iron Maiden As a young woman, who finds herself amidst the journey of marriage to a strange count, discovers sexual liberation, perversion and death I loved the language in this one, full of underlying sensuality and the blurred line between pleasure and despairThe Courtship of Mr LyonA story based on Beauty and the Beast Carter kept the most well known features of the tale intact Sometimes, the best retellings are the ones that stay close to the original source and this was definitely the case hereThe Tiger s BrideThe second story based on Beauty and the Beast A young woman of aristocratic origin travels from Russia to Italy The Beast becomes a tiger in a tale full of weird twists that make the ending shocking and powerful Carter shows that finding your identity is essential for both sexes and the descriptions are poetic and vivid A story of winter and springPuss in BootsA tale based on the story by Giovanni Francesco Straparola Puss in Boots had never been among my favourite fairy tales but Carter manages to combine it with Rossini s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Figaro is turned into a genius, cynic and all around spectacular feline An entertaining story that reads like a true opera buffaThe Erl KingReminiscent of Goethe, the Grimm brothers and the legend of the King of Fairies in Scandinavian folklore The tale starts with a beautiful description of an autumnal forest, haunting and colourful, full of smells and visions It is the most sexually charged tale of the collection with beautiful erotic descriptions and a constant battle between innocence and awareness Love isn t a blinding force in this story The maiden doesn t saintly surrender to her fate She changes it and prevailsThe Snow ChildThere are many versions of this fairy tale Carter chooses the most shocking, violent, dark variant, a twisted vision of a tormented Snow White It is a short tale that strikes at the heart with its dark themes of necrophilia, abuse and lethal jealousyThe Lady of the House of Love A girl who is both death and the maidenCarter combines the tale of The Sleeping Beauty , the legend of Elizabeth Bathory and the tale of Dracula to create a story set in the Carpathian region during the turn of the previous century that is nothing short of a masterpieceThe WerewolfIt makes me sad that in our current times, books of dubious to put it mildly quality have transformed such haunting and fascinating creatures into a fad of a horrible pop culture Thankfully, writers like Carter do not refuse them the position that centuries of lore have granted to these tortured creatures of the night A tale based on Little Red Riding Hood , enriched with folklore from Walpurgisnacht and with an interesting heroine of dubious motivesThe Company of Wolves The wolfsong is the sound of the rending you will suffer, in itself a murderingA second story based on Little Red Riding Hood The wolf is the protagonist The beauty, the agility, the danger Carter makes use of the legends and fables about the werewolf juxtaposed with the innocence of the children and the allure of the forbidden A story that is open to many interpretationsWolf AliceThis is the third story based on Little Red Riding Hood and the one fully demonstrating society s obsession to have us all the same, denying us the right to be what we want to be A young woman defies religious and social rules and discovers that compassion and companionship are sometimes waiting where we least expect them.
The stories are rich in visual scenes, faithful to the spirit of their original sources and composed of themes that are difficult and demanding Carter speaks of female emancipation, sexual liberation, the heavy chains of patriarchy and society s expectations of women Carter defies the stereotypes and clearly demonstrates the desire for the identity of the heroine who saves herself instead of waiting for the Knight Even when she falters, it s by her own choice and she accepts the consequences What are the canonical fairy tales, in any case Didactic parables of the notion that transgressions turn people into monsters Anything that doesn t meet the common expectations of appearance and behavior is considered demonic But we, as women, don t need to read tales to discover there are monsters in the world We ve seen them We have been facing them for centuries We still fight against them We always willIt is my sincerest conviction that fairy tales, especially retellings such as these, can reveal about the human nature than any serious novel or philosophical work Carter s tales couldn t have been meaningful, relevant to our current times, mirroring issues that concern us constantly That is if we are willing to look deeper and search for them These tales are written in beautiful language but this is merely a technical issue What matters is what they try to tell us and show us This is beyond labels such as Horror or Gothic or Literary Fiction It is about ourselves and our identitiesThe lamb must learn to run with the tigers My reviews can also be found on
She s a great story teller She transports the stories to the confines of modern society and considers real issues such as the representation of women, the limitations of gender and the restrictions of stories themselves.
Her prose is captivating, near on enchanting As soon as I began reading the first story in here, I was hooked on her style She reminds me of Margaret Attwood The two have a way of presenting such issues in a remarkably frank way, and better yet the stories themselves, the actual plot rather than the allegories, are immensely entertaining This is the kind of literature I love a suspense filled vessel of storytelling that is full of dark meanings She s a drastically under read writer when you consider her creative talent I couldn t recommend her work highly, especially today.