The Bloody Chamber
by Angela Carter
I had such high hopes for this book after seeing it recommended and spoken of so highly by some people whose opinion I trust. So many people were saying they were great retelling's, that they were well written and feminist and just -- all these good things. But, alas, it was a total let down.Summary: From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.
It didn't deliver any of the positive things at all really. I mean, with the feminist thing, it's more that nothing stood out to me as being overtly or inherently feminist about it in comparison to other fairytale retelling's so I didn't get why it would be described that way.
I should probably preface this by saying that short story collections are among my least favourite forms of literature. Novels are my favourite, plays and poetry are very hit and miss but there are some that I absolutely love, novellas are okay...but short stories. I've only found a couple that I really loved and I was hoping this would change that...but it didn't.
I guess, my point is, maybe this is a genuinely good collection of fairytale retelling's but because I'm not a fan of short stories to begin with my dislike may just be because of that.
But this wasn't good enough to change my opinion, is what I'm trying to say.
I'll start with The Bloody Chamber, the longest of the stories in the book. Now, this is one of the ones where I'm not too familiar with the original story that it is retelling so I was going into it without comparisons -- it had a total clean slate with me and, well, I found it to be quite boring. Actually, quite is an understatement -- it quite literally put me to sleep. More than once.
The writing didn't impress me, which was a disappointment because I was really expecting it to after the things I'd heard about Angela's works. I like writing that is lovely and poetic, writing that flows well...and if it can't be that, then I like it to just not get in the way of my enjoyment of the story. The writing of this wasn't lovely or poetic and it definitely got in the way of the story, it was much too long and too wordy, and at times it would drone on about things that were so dull that I would zone out and have to go back and reread parts of it (not something you want to be feeling reading a short story).
It's just frustrating when reading a short story to feel like the author wasted words on things that didn't matter, things that added nothing to the story but dullness, when they could've fleshed out the characters more or added more to the plot or something.
The story itself, beyond the writing, was quite bland. I quite liked the climax of the story (more who got to be the hero than anything else because it was a bit - abrupt?). All of the stories in the book were quite bland really. The best of the bunch were just okay, most were forgettable, some I just hated entirely.
I'd rate this collection 1.5 stars out of 5. If short stories (particularly dark fairytale retelling's) are your kind of thing then you will probably enjoy it way more than I did...but as I said, short stories aren't usually my cup of tea in general. There will be other exceptions to that rule, I don't doubt, but this collection was not amongst them.