Thursday, 11 July 2013

Book Review: The Bloody Chamber and Other Short Stories

I did English Literature AS-Level, and had I continued to A2 I would have studied this volume of short stories in conjunction with Carol Ann Duffy’s The World's Wife and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing . We studied the Duffy poems in the weeks after the AS exams, and I had done Much Ado for my year 9 SATs. So, I had wanted to ‘complete the triangle’, as it were, for nearly two years when I finally picked my copy of The Bloody Chamber off my to-read shelf.

It’s a collection of short stories, ranging in length from about a page to over thirty, which, to quote Carter herself ‘extract the latent content from the traditional stories.’  Since I love The World’s Wife and Much Ado, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this book.

Sadly, I found that I really couldn’t get along with it. It seemed, quite frankly, pretentious. One story featured the phrase ‘the subaqueous depths of his kisses’ and (not to sound arrogant) even with my extensive vocabulary I ended up with a huge list of words to look up later. It was, basically, a prose version of The World’s Wife, and far less witty at that. That being said, it was published twenty years before Duffy’s work, which renders The World’s Wife a better and more witty version of The Bloody Chamber!

My general disappointment in the book aside, I did enjoy the title story and a couple of others: The Tiger’s Bride and The Courtship of Mr Lyon. Curiously, both of the latter two are based on Beauty and the Beast, which is my favourite Disney film and in general a lovely story – I think something about the notion of love being able to materially change someone strikes a chord with me.

I also found The Lady of the House of Love very poignant and generally sad. I took a message of youth and purity winning out over age and evilness – though I don’t think that was the intended message! In The Company of Wolves there is a clever turn on the phrase ‘the clothes make the man’ and the grittier side of Red Riding Hood is evident too. I thought those were possibly the most cleverly written of the bunch.

So my conclusion with this book is that I can understand why it’s considered ‘good literature’ but I don’t like it that much personally – and if you haven’t read it, I’d advise you to read The World’s Wife instead!

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