Author: Angela Carter
Published by: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Where I got the book: Public Library
“And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.
The next day, we were married.”
— “The Bloody Chamber” p. 7
This is a beautiful collection of stories that critiques and transforms traditional fairy tales, flipping conventions on their head to tell stories from women’s perspectives. Although originally published in 1979, The Bloody Chamber still holds a strong impact today. Some of the stories themes may feel a little outdated due to how mainstream they’ve become today but are still worth the read.
It’s easy to see the impact feminism had on Carter’s writing as she flips fairy tale narrative conventions, retelling classic stories such as “Beauty and the Beast”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, and “Bluebeard”. The stories not only critique social institutions, such as marriage, but also draws readers into the question of who is evil. Themes of monsters and devils, wolves and beasts, mad men and transformation, draw a thin line between people and the darkness we condemn. Women’s desire is a key theme that is found through out the collection, something that’s refreshing in a genre that primarily erases women’s sexuality and desire despite them being the subject of the story.
Carter’s prose is richly descriptive. Sometimes almost to the detraction of the story. There were times when I found myself stumbling over the language used and then realizing I had no idea what happened on the previous page. However, these stories are well worth slowing down to better appreciate them. Carter constantly surprises the reader, ripping the carpet out from under them as they get complacent. Her writing evokes such beautiful madness, drawing vivid pictures of the Erl-King’s forest, decrepit castles, and the scent of blood and beast.