Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

And so I've finally been indoctrinated into the society of Angela Carter fans. And yes, I'd certainly call myself a fan after finishing The Bloody Chamber and Other Adult Tales, an amazing collection of retellings of some classic folk and fairy tales along with a few original pieces that draw off of common myths. From page one of this collection, in the title story, I was hooked. I was hooked by Angela Carter's haunting and alluring prose that draws the reader in, spins an amazing tale, speaks volumes on things that matter, and entertains, excites, horrifies, and moves all along. THIS is what I want my books to be. I want them to mean something, I want them to entertain me, I want them to move me, I want to get lost in them, I want to feel them. And most books I read do. But I have to say that a collection of folk tales hasn't made me love the fantasy/fairy tale genre so much in a long time as much as this one has. Here we have retellings of the tale of Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, The Erlking, and The Snow Child among others. But it's Carter's own take on the tales that makes them uniquely hers. It's often a dark and sinister take. They are very much tales for adults. They are not tales to read your children at bedtime. But what they all feature are strong female characters. One thing I notice is that Carter does a fantastic job juxtaposing in these tales what society has traditionally shown women to be in these tales versus the strength that women have. Her female character are often initially portrayed as weak, damsel in distress women who are the subject of cruelty by men or who have little power in the dynamics presented. But what I loved about this collection is the strength that her female characters ultimately show. And that strength never comes from a supernatural power, it is a power that is innate. A power that is their own. It's a beautiful thing, the power of the heart, the power of conviction, the power of the body, the power of the mind. And Carter expertly channels those things through her writing. I'm going to keep this review short because I don't want to go into the individual stories. I think they're something that should be read and experienced blindly. Each is familiar in a skeletal way until Carter shatters that skeleton in an ingenious way with her own spin on the tale. But you'll recognize the story immediately when it's time for you to. Some of the most moving stories are only a few pages long. But then again, it's hard to compare individual stories when they're all phenomenal. Literally, there wasn't a story in this collection that I didn't enjoy, though I did have favorites, "The Bloody Chamber", "The Snow Child", "The Company of Wolves" and "Wolf Alice" being my favorites. Though truly I could keep adding to that list. Why is it that all of my favorite books always seem to come from the library? I so wish I could put this one onto my permanent shelves....

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