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The Fifty Women Challenge: ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter ***

A few of the choices on mine and Yamini’s Fifty Women Challenge list are authors whom I very much enjoy, but I am still only scratching the surface of their work.  Angela Carter is one such woman.

9780140178210I must admit that I have found her work a little hit and miss in the past.  I very much enjoyed The Moving Toyshop, and still think that the magical realism within it, and the beguiling and creepy elements, have no real equal in contemporary literature.  I have found a few of her other novels a little less enticing, however, despite her holding such a prominent place on the Virago Modern Classics list.

I had been very much looking forward to reading The Bloody Chamber for such a long time, and thought that I would very much enjoy it, loving twists upon fairytales as I do.  I was therefore thrilled when I found a copy of Carter’s Burning Your Boats: Collected Short Stories in a local charity shop, albeit a rather battered one.

A few weeks before I had planned to read The Bloody Chamber, my dear friend Belinda told me how disappointed she was with the collection, particularly with regard to the way in which Carter had subjected all of the male characters within it to some form of weakness, so that her female protagonists could subjugate them.

Still, I began the stories with an open mind.  Each of the tales here presents a series of (mostly) clever twists upon well-known fairytales.  I found that Carter’s writing is often careful and really quite wonderful, particularly within the title story which opens the collection.  Her vivid descriptions and general prose in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ were both lovely and rather disturbing.  Incredibly strange elements manifest themselves throughout, something which will surely not surprise anyone who is already familiar with her work.

As I often find with short story collections, some of the tales were far better than others; I felt that the originality tailed off a little after the first few stories, and never really reached the same level again.  Some of them felt too developed, and others were not developed enough; there was no real balance struck between the two.  There were a lot of similarities within the plots too, and a lot of them seemed to circle around (were)wolves, which I have very little interest in.

To comment upon the males within the collection, they were utterly void of strength in places, and rather unnecessarily so.  It was always the women who had to act as the rescuers, and the men who had to act as the victims.  I could see what Carter was trying to do within The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, but it just didn’t really follow the boundaries of the real world, which the stories themselves still purported to be set within.  Feminism should not be about weakening males in comparison to females; it should be about equality – something which does not seem to exist within the realms of this collection.  To conclude, I really did enjoy the overriding fairytale theme within The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, but feel that Carter could have been a touch more creative with it at times.

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