Author: Angela Carter
Rating: 4 Stars
Dates read: 03 Jan 19 – 07 Jan 19
Publication date: 1979
Genre(s): Modern Classics, Short Stories, Folk Stories
In The Bloody Chamber – which includes the story that is the basis of Neil Jordan’s 1984 movie The Company of Wolves – Carter spins subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales and legends like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” giving them exhilarating new life in a style steeped in the romantic trappings of the gothic tradition.I was warned before I read this that some of the stories were creepy, some horrible, and that the collection for fairytales and folklore is one that shouldn’t be read lightly and would feature some twisted characters and tales. This was the understatement of the year! I listened to this as an audiobook, and I’m not going to lie to you, 99% of that was because it was narrated by Emilia Fox and Richard Armitage. They were amazing, and even though it was odd to hear such tales being spoken to me in their voices, their narration was incredible!
The titular story in this collection was probably my favourite. I don’t know if it was because it was longer, and therefore more engaging, but it was a really good balance of down right weird and creepy, and fascinatingly enjoyable. I feel like the murderous tendencies of the wealthy Marquis are a cautionary tale for all those following and adoring reading about books with lead characters who are sadists and masochists. At some point, you could end up as the third dead wife all trussed up in an iron maiden. In all seriousness (if that life lesson isn’t serious enough) there is a real growth in the lead character as she matures from a young girl into the early throes of adulthood. She is a fundamentally nice person, and throughout the story she seeks information and adventure, befriends the right person, and even though she follows the wrong path (literally, to his sex death dungeon) she ultimately triumphs in a moralistic show of good winning against evil. Classic.
I have to say that although they left less of an impression, I really quite enjoyed The Courtship of Mr. Lyon and Puss-in-Boots.The first is a more modern interpretation of Beauty and the Beast, and that was great, I enjoyed it. The main thing I actually took away was “don’t take the piss”. I realise this might sound sarcastic, but when things have gone wrong, his car is broken down, Beauty’s father seeks refuge in the mansion of a beast. He literally feeds, warms, and provides assistance (financial and otherwise) to the man, he takes a rose and suffers the wrath of ‘The beast’. Yes, he imprisons his daughter, but when he Beast realises the negative effects his behaviour has on the old man, he releases her immediately, helps her father regain his fortune, and forgoes his own happiness for theirs. Don’t take the piss and take more than you need or have been granted.
In a completely opposite show of behaviour, Puss-in-Boots is a great example of debauchery and cynicism. I felt like Puss-in-Boots in this form is the type of character I would like to write about. He is a conman of the highest order, and manipulates the felines and the females around him to his gain. This story also showcased Armitage’s acting prowess, the voices within were ridiculous, and added to the pomposity and absurdity of the story.
Sooo….yeah, The Snow Child was the most memorable and definitely the most horrific story of the lot for me and even though it was the shortest, it’s certainly left an impression. It was quite succinct and with that came a matter of fact tone that carried through the necrophilia, rape, and paedophilia and yeah, it’s probably not something I want to read again and I am thankful that it was so short. The symbolism and imagery described through the colours and items that mimicked the girl’s eventual features was well done and provided a cyclical element to the short story, but I could hardly say it was a good thing for the story was so unpleasant.
I am not really sure what I thought about this story, or what I was supposed to take from it. The protagonist starts as a feral being, a literally feral child that nuns try to humanise and civilise and I really wasn’t in tune with the characters disposition to start with. She is forced to attempt to conform and learn civilised behaviours, non of which stick. The story, however, takes a turn when she is locked up with the duke (who I assumed to be Vampiric if my memory and understanding serve me well). At this point, the story came alive, for she was allowed to be herself, and in being herself, she realised her humanity and began to evolve and empathise with the duke, thus becoming more human and more rounded than those attempting to civilise her earlier in the story.
I haven’t mentioned all the stories. This was a partially because I didn’t have a huge love for some stories. Some were more memorable and enjoyable than others, and some were somewhat repetitive as they followed the same myths and folklore and this is what stopped this being a 5* read. I enjoyed it as a collection, but found some stories were much more enthralling than others.
I found this to be much more weird, and dare I say wonderful, that I ever could have imagined. It was an example of an unusual set of tales reimagined in an unusual way and then brought to life by a pair of gifted actors/narrators. In short, the blend of weird and talented minds created a storytelling whirlwind that was enticing and ultimately made me think that there are definitely modern classics, and indeed retellings, out there for me.