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The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter

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Author: Angela Carter / Genre: Fiction

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    7 Reviews
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      25.02.2010 01:29
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      Would reccomend to many fans of literature or fairytale. If you like warped things, two thumbs up!

      "The Bloody Chamber" is the latest book I've been studying on my Gothic Course (student life, eh?) and by God is it a fantastic read! I'm immediately grateful for being able to read and disect the book amongst peers who share the same passion as me. The book seems so riddled with sometimes subtle, sometimes explicit religious, feminist, gothic and sexual imagery that it really helps to read it in part of a group, so that you really can just get hold of what a fantastically sensual writer Carter is.

      She's famously known for writing dark, mainly sexualized feminist spins on (usually) fairy tales or womanhood - and these originated in around about the 70's. I'm surprised Carter isn't up there with the greats, and isn't listed on any of the BBC's "Big Read's" or in the Literary Canon itself.

      The novel (consisting of many short stories - some fairytale-like, and others twisted dark tales) is gorgeously written, where every sentence seems perfectly structured with a great deal of time and effort poured into it. Her unique and brilliant writing style evidently shows the amount of love she puts into her stories, and her constant comparisons, metaphors and sensual imagery are brilliant for those that love to dig a little deeper into their narratives without too much difficult.

      Sadly, it is not without its faults. Some of the stories can become monotonous in time, as the writing style is relentlessly consistant throughout - which is both its beauty and its curse (too much of a good thing, perhaps.) Some stories are either too bizarre or uninteresting to really warm to - however the highlight for me is definately the very first, eponymous "The Bloody Chamber" - which charts the marraige and abuse suffered by an unreliable female narrator, who see's her husband as both a villain and a weak, wilten flower. Very interesting, diverse and penetrable material.

      You can pick this up for pennies now - thoroughly reccomend. You won't be dissapointed!

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        19.02.2010 03:00
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        I dislike the mutilation of humanity's fairy tales in this manor, thus dislike the book.

        I was forced to read this book as part of my A-Level English work and I was very surprised upon reading it. The book "re-tells", or in my opinion completely changes, various fairy tale stories, adding violence, sex or both.

        The book contains 10 stories, the longest being the title story at around 40 pages, whilst some others are a mere 3 pages. In terms of reading, these stories are very short and not something that will take long too read; You'll have put it down before then anyway.

        The stories are very vulgar, including things such as necrophilia, rape, brutal and in detail violence, torture and just many things that you would have to be pretty twisted to want to read; I can't imagine what type of person Angela Carter was but I assume she, herself, was fairly odd to want to write about this. Sure some people enjoy probing into these "unspeakable" areas, but one 2 page story is about how a man finds a girl, she dies, he rapes the corpse and it ends. Is that really what people enjoy reading? I'm not the type of person that's scared to acknowledge these things and I would happily make jokes about them, but this book is just a disgrace.

        It must be said as well that Carter writes well and uses the book to express various points, but it is too extreme in my personal opinion

        In class, my teacher was reading a section to us and the word "c*nt" (obviously not asterisked out!) came up; that made for an amusing lesson. But otherwise this dire book merely added a very uncomfortable air to the lesson (why they make school children read this I don't know) and this is a book I wouldn't touch for "leisure".

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          06.01.2010 00:02
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          Quite good, but not really impressed.

          After reading this story for the A2 part of my A-Level, I can't say I was impressed. The stories are well written, I admit that, but although Angela Carter claims that they aren't "adult" stories, there is an awful lot of sex and violence in there. Where there isn't any of this, the stories are interesting, but I feel that these parts ruin them. It's not good to think of the stories we all know and love being turned into violent ones.

          The Bloody Chamber is based around Bluebeard, giving the same story but adding more violence; describing the wives in more detail when they are dead, and also adding a description of the pornography collection which the man kept. As a person who had never read Bluebeard before this, I felt the story had a good plot, and there were twists which I never could've imagined.

          The rest of the stories are quite short, and most of them do include sex (e.g. The Snow Child involves a man having sex with a dead girl in front of his wife) which I feel overshadows the rest of the story. They are well-written, but even Angela Carter admitted to some of her stories "appauling" her.

          Overall, if you are easily offended, this is not the right book for you.

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          01.12.2009 19:20
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          For any lover of reading

          I studied this book for a whole year at AS level and came out with an A in English Language and Literature, i literally know it like the back of my hand! Carter 'retells' all of our favourite fairytales as children.. Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots. However, she claims to take the 'latent' content from the stories and completely adapt them herself. The book is full of several different short stories.

          Carter is famous for her use of imagery and descriptive writing, and uses very little dialogue as she admits herself is her downfall. The title story - The Bloody Chamber is significantly longer than the others but still a very short story, of how a girl sells herself to riches with deadly consequences, and it truelly exciting as well as graphic and slightly pornographic.

          The next two stories are "The Courtship of Mr Lyon" and "The Tigers Bride" in which are both adapted from Beauty and the Beast both similar but with an alternative ending and voices in the narrative. All of these stories are dark and descriptive, and certainly are made for adult reading - i would not suggest this for a young reader.

          Carter is a feminist, and the point behind these stories are to turn the conventions of Fairytales upside down. The typical prince, knight in shining armour.. she shows women can indeed be dominant, proven in the title story, where it is a woman that saves the unnamed mistress and not a man.

          I thuroughly enjoyed this book and the stories, and if you have an open mind and are prepared for your senses to be blown, you will too!

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          27.08.2009 14:51
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          Taking the themes and plots of traditional tales, and bringing them back to an adult audience

          Angela Carter was one of the boldest writers of the 20th century. Championed by feminists, Carter is not the usual PC promoting puritan that became a cliché in her time. Instead she strengthened female role models through her own imaginative ideas and often sourced through real evidence. She did this without diminishing other male characters in fiction. Her research into gothic fiction and, in particular, folk stories reveals this best. Her short collection of stories The Bloody Chamber served as the source for the screenplay she wrote, A Company of Wolves, one of the most startlingly original films of the 1980s. In Carter's works, characters familiar like Red Riding Hood do not overwhelm or emasculate the male characters rather they compliment them with a different and yet equal strength.

          There is a wonderful feeling of unrestrained exploration in Carter's storytelling. The collection does not comfortably fit common conventions. Beauty and the Beast gets two versions and Red Riding Hood gets three, but Snow White barely gets a page. Some fairy tale themes are common, others are not so familiar. Tones change from the bawdy and amusing Puss in Boots to the very disturbing and poetic aforementioned Snow White influenced Snow Child to the Sadean inspired horrors of the book's titular tale.

          Folk and fairy tales derive their strength from being able to explore human nature unhindered via the vehicle of magical realism. The Bloody Chamber shows that Angela Carter was undeniably one of the best at conveying these ideas back to the adult reader or listener.

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          20.08.2009 11:58
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          One of my favorite Angela Carter collections

          Vintage have a reputation for publishing cutting edge fiction, and Angela Carter's 1979 'The Bloody Chamber' was no exception. Continuing the feminist themes found in the earlier 'Magic Toyshop' and 'Passion of New Eve' novels, Carter uses the uncanny atmosphere inherent in most familiar fairy tales to expose deep-lying patriarchal assumptions and exploitations built into the stories. At the same time, the stories have been restored to the graphic nastiness which would have been more common in the oral traditions from which the later cleaned-up children's classics were derived.

          One thing these stories definitely achieve in rewritting the tales in this way is that one if forced to reconsider the purposes to which the stories are put when presented to children in their more traditional guise. Carter makes clear the manipulative way in which the original stories write women into histories that are limiting and inscribed; she also makes clear the often brutal primal impulses that lie beneath stories which on the surface seem innocent.

          'The Bloody Chamber' is the title piece in the collection; in this rewrite of 'Bluebeard' it is feminine strength and maternal affection which eventually save the heroine from the grusome fate of the original story. Carter exposes the exploration of sexual awakening which lies inherent in the original tale, but by rewriting the ending she also refutes the implication that, for women, sexual awareness leads to violent death.

          'The Courtship of Mr Lyon' is based on Beauty and the Beast, and Carter's main motivation here seems to have been the reveersal of the roles of the two main characters: in Carter's rewrite it is Beauty who is essentially selfish and shallow, while the Beast is long-suffering and faithful. It is a story about the toll a broken promise can take on the breaker. In contrast, 'The Tiger Bride', which is also a rewrite of Beauty and the Beast, glories in the bestial nature of sexual relations by having Beauty transform herself into a Beast in order to live a happy life with her lover.

          'The Erlking' is perhaps my favorite adaptation in the collection; herea young girl falls in love with a wood-spirit she finds when wandering in the woods; when she learns he intends to imprison her, however, she murders him and sets his other captives free. This tale reads like a dreamscape, and the evocations of the woodspirit are both sexual and magical. Here, the motive is obscure, but the neding leaves one with a sense of empowerment - for whom is unclear.

          'Puss in Boots' is the most light-hearted story in the collection, and the only real deviation from the original is that Puss is aided by an equally cunning female cat, with whom he eventually forms a 'relationship'. The best part about this story is that cat-nature is wonderfully evoked - anyone who is fond of cats cannot help but enjoy this adaptation of an old favorite about cats who are cleverer than their masters.

          'The Lady of the House of Love' is less intruiging than the other stories, bieng little more than a vividly painted picture of the classic femme fatale vampire. 'The Snow Child', likewise, is a crystal-clear condemnation of rape and female idolatry, but although brautifully written, it lacks the originality of some of the other stories.

          Finally, 'The Werewolf', 'The Company of Wolves' and 'Wolf-Alice' are all adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood, and they examine in painful detail the underlying anxieties about sexuality, desire, and rebelliousness.All three are interesting in their own ways, and all are beautifully crafted.

          Over all, this is a book well worth reading, both for those interested in the genesis and influence of folk and fairytales, and for those with an interest in feminism, and especially for those who just like a wonderful horror story.

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            17.03.2006 11:37
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            An engaging, creative, expressive, fantastic symbol of post-feminist ideology

            Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber – Book Review

            The Bloody Chamber published first in the UK in 1979, is a compilation of short stories written by Angela Carter. These pieces of short fiction are mainly Carter’s own versions of fairytales – transformed from the patriarchal tales they once were. Her aim was to uncover the unconscious patriarchal themes repeatedly found in folklores and fairytales, and to subvert these in order to shed light on the post-feminist perspective.

            She draws the reader into the mind of the protagonist, who is usually female, with the personal, private feel of the first person narrative. Themes such as the suppression of female desires, females being objectified, confined to a domestic life are all critically challenged in this expose of society then and today.

            You experience traditional patriarchal values being practiced on you as you are drawn in with Carter’s precise descriptions, engulfed in her expressions of the senses, erotic and distressing situations and you are made to realize the injustice of the way women are perceived to be and expected to behave.

            Angela Carter mainly drew her source material from fairytales like “Beauty and The Beast” and folklores such as “The Erl-King” which comes from German and Scandinavian traditions. Fairytales and folklores are seen as harmless, innocent part of children’s upbringing in modern times, and some of the earlier versions of fairytales such as “Red Riding Hood” have been euphonized or whitewashed to make them more suitable for children. These fairytales and folklores used to be much more explicit, involving blood and violence and used to cater for children and adults alike.

            Carter noticed the heavy patriarchal values in fairytales and folklores, which inconspicuously spread their message to children and socialised them to accept certain gender roles and associate particular things with either genders: “Men act – Women react” as is the case with “Sleeping Beauty”.
            Carter presents her work in an obscure, scrambled manner, as the stories begin in no specific, chronological order, sometimes begin near the end or the middle of the original fairytales, the characters have no specific names, there is no knowledge of the era, but rough hints, no knowledge of location, it is very ambiguous for a good reason.

            The nameless, timeless, lost feeling of the pieces of fiction lend it a quality of universality, it can be applied to anyone, anyone can relate to it and the situations can be symbolic of real life experiences, which further reinforces the universality of widespread patriarchy.

            Angela Carter has also written “Nights at the Circus” which also deals with the same patriarchy versus feminism concept. She has also written many other such titles to awaken the general public, in times of social change (1970-1980) to adopting a new perspective on gender roles.

            The Bloody Chamber was also the topic of study for AS students, and after studying the short pieces of fiction we attempted to write our own subverted folklore or fairytale as part of our coursework, lining it with the same post-feminist, magical realism themes that Carter used in order to challenge male dominance and express female freedom and power.

            Carter’s subverted fairytales gained a lot of recognition and were successful in conveying their strong, powerful message to the masses, and she even made a film using the stories, which involved wolves, a symbol of male dominance and carnal desires, from The Bloody Chamber. All in all, her collection of stories are an invaluable, fantastic and creative symbol of post-feminist ideology.


            I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it has changed my outlook on books and ways of writing and influenced my own writing too. I highly reccommend it.


            10/10

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            The Bloody Chamber is a short, yet influential collection of stories. Told in Carter's sumptuous, often convoluted prose, these are magnificent tales. Carter turns some fairy-tale conventions on their ears, but keeps others. She rarely gives her characters names, instead calling them by descriptions or pronouns. Though the stories are quite vivid, they're also somewhat impersonal, but this is in keeping with traditional fairy tales.