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Friday, 29 July 2011

Book Review: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I bought this collection of short stories for one of my undergraduate modules. I promptly read the requisite story (the title piece) and left the rest to be completed at a later date. I'm rather glad I did. After my first real experience of Angela Carter in the form of Nights at the Circus I learned to appreciate her in a way I don't think I would've been able to five years ago. One of the best things about Carter are the layers she injects into her stories. Read them on the literal level, read them on the figurative, then drift into the abyss between and see what you find there. The Bloody Chamber was an enchanting, if quite disturbing, read.

Carter takes traditional fairy tales and legends as her base for this series of compelling short stories. The results are usually darker than the originals but they retain the essence of them. Carter's tales seem to compliment the fairy tales rather than detract from them. She merely demonstrates another strand, another interpretation.

There are ten stories in this collection, the longest being the title piece. I have to say, that is one of my favourites, probably because of the gruesome imagery that runs rampant throughout it. It takes Bluebeard as it's underlying tale but is very much an excellent tale in its own right. My other favourites were "The Courtship of Mr Lyon", mainly due to the Beauty and the Beast base, and "The Lady of the House of Love". The latter was bewitching, particularly the language of decay that permeates the narrative.

I'd highly recommend this collection but I would add a caveat - don't read it just before you go to sleep!

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