The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter

I love Angela Carter’s writing. The stories in this collection are full of atmosphere – dark and moody, sensual, sometimes playful. Here, she takes an assortment of fairy tales and reworks them with a ‘sexier’ and more ‘feminist’ slant.

If you know your fairy tales, that might be very effective. Personally, I thought her retelling of Puss-in-Boots was adorable, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember enough about the original to know what she had changed. Sadly, that was the case for a lot of these stories – I don’t recall ever reading a fable about The Erl-King or Wolf-Alice, and I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out whether I knew the stories from somewhere or not.

“The Tiger’s Bride” was probably my favorite story – the atmosphere is incredibly vivid, the young woman determined to keep her dignity and The Beast a character full of charm and mystery. I also loved “The Company of Wolves” – earlier, I was enchanted by the movie that was based on this story. And I was familiar enough with the story of Bluebeard and his unfortunate wives to cheer the great improvement in that story’s ending.

I was a little puzzled by how some of these changes could be characterized as “feminist.” It’s pretty clear in “Puss-in-Boots” when the lady in the tower conspires with the gentleman and his cat to free herself of an unpleasant husband and take control of her own affairs. But in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, the young wife marries for money and, after being discovered n the forbidden chamber, goes quietly to her doom. And “The Snow Child”? I found that positively creepy…and not in a good way.

Certainly not fairy tales you’ll be reading to your children, but all in all an excellent bedtime read…as long as you aren’t prone to nightmares.

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