Book Review: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, godmother of fairytale twists

    Everything old is new again, so goes the phrase. And Angela Carter's radically strong women, who relish sex, adventure, and find crafty ways to thumb their noses at all manner of annoying traditions and bores fit in this category. 
    Carter was born in England in 1940, and wrote some of her best stories back in the '70s. She died in 1992, way too soon. Yet her stories not only live on, but are still cutting edge and eye-opening, even to my young feminist and activist students.
    As Kelly Link said in the intro to this new edition: 
“Since I first came across The Bloody Chamber, I have kept a copy with me wherever I have been living. . . . The things that I needed, when I was beginning to think about writing short stories, were the things that I found in The Bloody Chamber. . . . Reading Carter, each time, [is] electrifying. It [lights] up the readerly brain and all the writerly nerves. . . . What we don’t have, of course, is any more Angela Carter stories. And how I yearn for exactly this.” —Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Pretty Monsters
    My favorite in this collection (which includes twists on "Little Red Riding Hood", "Puss in Boots" and more) is the title story, "The Bloody Chamber", a twist on "Bluebeard". It is creepy to the max, yet fantastic in its lyrical beauty, with passages so stunningly gorgeous they take my breath away, yet other passages that make my stomach churn. She does not shy away from awkward emotions: the conflicting emotions of the young bride who is at once disgusted by, and hungering for more physical attention from her predatory husband. In this, Carter is not afraid to be "politically incorrect" to drive home how many levels we exist on. But to be sure, this vile man gets his comeuppance. And in this, too, Carter goes way beyond the "modern" trend of the heroine saving the day, to end on a twist verboten in the acceptable basket of trope twists, yet completely satisfying, and one my female creative writing students cheer on in a sort of shock and awe daze. I won't provide spoilers here. You just have to read it!

I'll end with these two quotes from Carter. You can see her as a young woman, and then older, yet always an original.


  1. Makes me want to read it--I'm from that era, first bra-burners and all that. Rock on!


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