Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody ChamberThe Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of fairy tale retellings, which is one of my favorite things to read. I like modernizations and twists on well-known stories. This was not my favorite, though.

The title story is a retelling of "Bluebeard," from the young wife's perspective. It gives her a happy ending. "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" is a Beauty and the Beast story, as is the third story in the collection, "The Tiger's Bride." "Puss-in-Boots" is a naughtier take on that legend, where the title character has a female ally, and his master's great ambition is to seduce a married woman. "The Erl-King" is a legend I'm unfamiliar with, but the theme seemed rather similar to "The Bloody Chamber." "The Snow Child" is a Snow White tale involving jealousy and necrophilia. It's short, but disturbing. "The Lady of the House of Love" is mostly a Sleeping Beauty story with vampires. "The Werewolf," "The Company of Wolves," and "Wolf-Alice" are all based around the Little Red Riding Hood story.

For a lot of the stories I read, I couldn't help but wonder why Carter had bothered to rewrite them. I suppose my perception is colored by those following in her footsteps to retell the stories in a more engaging way, but a lot of the retellings seemed pointless to me. I almost didn't pick the book up again after I read "The Snow Child."

It's also fairly repetitive. Of the many, many fairy tales known by modern readers, Carter picks seven for a ten-story collection. I might have enjoyed them more if I'd read them more spread apart. All together like this, and it only increased my puzzlement about why she'd bothered.

I suppose the collection does an excellent job of showing how fairy tales can be turned and twisted to become something new. After all, one fairy tale is turned into three different stories.

On its own merits, I couldn't figure out why people so highly recommended this book to me. The style didn't engage me, and reading it felt like there was a punchline I'd missed. Someone has to break ground, I suppose, and for that, Angela Carter gets some credit. As an enjoyable read, though, I don't see myself picking up anything else she's written.

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  1. I quite liked this collection. I don't know if I'd read the rest of her work, but she does use words very well. I was familiar with all the stories in it before reading them, including the Erl King (my mother learned a poem in school about the Erl King and taught it to me), it's a really haunting legend.

    1. Lots and lots of people enjoyed this book, so I'm guessing my lack of engagement has a lot more to do with my mental state than the quality of the book. Still, I feel like it's been done so much better since this came out.