Author: Angela Carter
First Published: 1979
Page Count: 126
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 4/5 Stars
The fairy tales you know retold in a sensual and sometimes horrifying way.
*Mix of Horror/Fantasy *Unique Retellings
*Too Strange *Some Stories Better than Others
“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening.” Vampires, Beauty and the Beast, Puss and Boots, and many other familiar fairy tales and legends are retold by Angela Carter in this collection of short stories. However, these retellings are very different from the tales as you know them. Violence, gore, sex, and the horrors of the supernatural add a layer of sensuality and terror to the fairy tales of our childhood.
While I love a good old romantic retelling of my favorite fairy tales, getting to read a few retellings that have more of a horror angle to them was a treat and a breath of fresh air. Stories like Beauty and the Beast have the basics of the original fairytale, but mostly Carter completely revamps the story into something totally new. And because these new versions are so dark and different, you really don’t know if there will be a happy ending this time around. Of all the short stories in this book my favorite is the first and the one that gives the book its title: The Bloody Chamber. I don’t know if it’s an original story by Carter or a retelling of a story but I wasn’t familiar with it. It reminded me a lot of Rebecca but it is definitely a different ending then that classic novel.
While I appreciated the strangeness of the retellings, some of the stories were beyond bizarre. At the close of the story, you would literally sit there and wonder what on earth you had just read. The events were either too over the top in its strangeness to be believable even in a fairytale or too over the top to the point that you wonder why that addition was necessary. And even though there are some great retellings in this book, not every one is going to be a hit with the reader. I think this is just a personal preference; for instance I’ve never been a huge fan of Puss and Boots so that story was one I wanted to get through quickly to move on to something new.
If you aren’t a horror fan, I’d probably leave this book on the shelf. For some it can be a bit too macabre or intimate to see their beloved fairy tales retold in this way. However, I loved the twisted spin Carter gives these classics and would highly recommend it if you can stand or even enjoy Tarantino-esque violence in your Little Red Riding Hood story.