I recently discovered a youtuber whose channel name is The Personal Philosophy Project. She creates content revolving around saving money, writing, minimal shopping and books. In one of her videos, “Enchanted & Wintery Books to Cosy Up With”, she recommended a book called The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I had not heard of the book before and when she briefly described it by saying that it was reimagined fairy tales, my curiosity was piqued. I quickly ordered it, read it and now here we are. This review will possibly have spoilers. Let’s start with the synopsis!
Angela Carter was a storytelling sorceress, the literary godmother of such contemporary masters of supernatural fiction as Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, J. K. Rowling, and Kelly Link, who introduces this edition of Carter’s most celebrated book, published for the seventy-fifth anniversary of her birth.
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.
The Bloody Chamber consists of ten short stories, all targeted toward an older teen or adult audience. In order, they are: “The Bloody Chamber”, “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon”, “The Tiger’s Bride”, “Puss-in-Boots”, “The Erl-King”, “The Snow Child”, “The Lady of the House of Love”, “The Werewolf”, “The Company of Wolves” and “Wolf-Alice”.
I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this book as a whole. I went into it expecting to give it a five star, glowing review but I’m not sure that I can. I’m going to briefly review each short story because I just can’t give one opinion for the overall book. One element all of the stories had in common, however, was the writing style. The writing throughout was beautiful and flowery but sometimes tedious to get through. I like to think that I have a decently long attention span and good reading comprehension but apparently neither was good enough for this book. I found myself getting lost at times or just down right bored. Don’t get me wrong, the superfluous language will be what some people want but it will be an annoyance for others.
Another element worth mentioning, all of the stories (supposedly) have a feminist undertone. I agree with that overall but it’s NOT hard to look like a strong woman when most of the men are crazy *shrugs*. Let’s get into the individual stories!
- “The Bloody Chamber”– I think I enjoyed this story the most out of all of them. It is a retelling of the story of “Bluebeard”. If you know that story, than you know this one because the only twist lies in the ending. Even with it being an almost exact retelling, I still love the characters and where the story line went. Sex is alluded to and there is crude language but nothing explicit.
- “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon”– This story is a typical “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. It’s pretty meh, to be honest. There was no sexual content.
- “The Tiger’s Bride”– This is another “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. I liked this one more than the previous but it was very… odd. Beauty is gambled away to the Beast by her father. The Beast only wants to see her naked (???) and then she can leave. She ends up falling in love with him, obviously, and they both become literal beasts together. It’s a story that left me scratching my head but okay. Sex is alluded to and there is crude language but nothing explicit.
- “Puss-in-Boots”– This is of course a retelling of Puss in Boots. I enjoyed this story just as much as “The Bloody Chamber”. It was entertaining and the main character was a cat, what more could you want? It did have some graphic, but not explicit, sexual content and language.
- “The Erl-King”– This story is based off the legend of the Erlking, a German king of the fairies. I really liked this one; not quite as much as “The Bloody Chamber” or “Puss-in-Boots” but close. It had a beautiful setting and I loved the ending. Sex is alluded to and there is slightly crude language but nothing explicit.
- “The Snow Child”– This is the shortest story in the book and the worst one. It’s a variant of the “Snow White” and “The Snow Child” stories. It apparently has a strong feminist meaning but what your reading about is ***trigger warning*** a man raping a dead child. It’s truly disgusting and unnecessary.
- “The Lady of the House of Love”-This story is loosely based off “Sleeping Beauty” and traditional vampire folklore. I LOVED this story! It’s in my top three with the “The Bloody Chamber” and “Puss-in-Boots”. It was perfectly written and bittersweet. Sex is alluded to and there is slightly crude language but nothing explicit.
- “The Werewolf”– This is a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” where the Grandmother and Little Red both have secrets to keep. It was fine but not remarkable. There was no sexual content.
- “The Company of Wolves”– This is another “Little Red Riding Hood” retelling that goes in a VERY different direction. Let’s just say maybe Little Red and the Wolf don’t hate each other. Sex is alluded to and there is slightly crude language but nothing explicit.
- “Wolf-Alice”– This is yet again, another “Little Red Riding Hood” variation. It was the last story that I read but it was honestly so boring that I don’t even remember it. I think that sex may have been alluded to but I’m not sure.
As you can probably tell, I’m very conflicted about this collection of short stories. Was it everything I hoped it would be? Definitely not but it’s also not the worst thing ever written. You may like this or you may not but I can’t say that I totally recommend it. If you’ve read it, I’d like to know your thoughts or if you haven’t read it, I’d like to know if it sounds like something you’d like. Thanks for reading and have a great day!