Posted on | April 9, 2010 | 24 Comments
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.