I once read a novel by Angela Carter about thirty years ago and I didn’t enjoy it much at the time although I couldn’t tell you now why I didn’t. Her work, however, is very highly regarded by people whose opinion I respect so I thought that I would have another go. The book I picked to read is a collection of short stories The Bloody Chamber.
I am not normally a fan of short stories but this collection worked for me because they are all connected by a theme. All the stories are retellings of fairy tales or folklore. You often see collections of updated fairytales but these are usually a gimmick – this book is literary fiction. The writing is beautifully descriptive and not a word in wasted.
The retelling of the stories has a feminist aspect to it. There are no maidens in distress in these tales and mostly the women save themselves. The sexual undertones which exist in much of our folklore are more explicit here but there is actually a lot more about power inequality and its abuses.
Fairytales retold include Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Bluebeard, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. There are also tales about werewolves and vampires. They are all dark and filled with images and very enjoyable to read. The stories are usually set in Europe with dark forests and sinister castles so they have a gothic feel to them. They occasionally veer towards horror but don’t, in my opinion, cross the line.
This is a slim volume so all the stories are short but they were truly enjoyable – you could dip in and out of the collection easily.