29 March 2012

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I read my first collection of short stories for the 100+ Books in a Year reading challenge. Earlier this month I read The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.

I have to tell you that I was excited about reading this book when I read it's description. It is a collection of ten short stories each inspired by a traditional fairy tale. Carter twists the stories and darkens them significantly, and the results are very effective.

The stories are:

  • "The Bloody Chamber," which is taken from the story of Bluebeard.
  • "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" and "The Tiger's Bride" are both inspired by Beauty and the Beast.
  • "Puss-in-Boots," which is an adaptation of (you guessed it) Puss in Boots.
  • "The Erl-King," which comes from an old folk character called the Erl King.
  • "The Snow Child" is inspired by Snow White.
  • "The Lady of the House of Love" comes from a radio play called "Vampirella."
  • The last three stories, "The Werewolf," "The Company of Wolves," and "Wolf-Alice" come from adaptations of the story of Red Riding Hood, with "Wolf-Alice" also containing references to Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

I enjoyed every story in this collection. I felt each was written well, and the progression of the stories through the collection was cohesive and worked well. The stories could be read out of order, but I'm glad I initially read them in order. Carter seems to have chosen the order carefully, and each story prepares you for the next.

Carter's collection plays with the traditional ideas of fairy tales, especially as they relate to the role of women. There are few damsels in distress in this collection, and the women who are damsels in distress are not rescued by Prince Charming and true love's kiss.

The points of view and writing styles vary depending on the story, which is effective. Carter took into consideration what stories were being told and how best to tell the new versions. However, throughout the collection, she includes references to the traditional stories, as well as traditional ways of telling stories, which keeps the reader in the fairy tale frame of mind when reading the collection. The lengths of the stories also varies depending on the story being told. The shortest story is just over a page long, and the longest could be considered a novella.

In case you can't tell, I really loved this collection. I definitely recommend it, particularly if you like fairy tales.

If you are considering reading this collection, I give you fair warning that it is a dark collection, and contains elements that may be disturbing to sensitive readers.

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