Hello all! Thank you so much to everyone who participated (and those who were reading along and not saying anything – you know who you are!) in our discussion of The Handmaid’s Tale last month. Remember that if you missed it, or just have more to say, the comments on that post are still open, so feel free to keep talking.
For our second book, we decided we wanted to read something by Angela Carter. None of us have read anything of hers before, and we struggled to choose from among her extensive catalogue, but when we opened the question to twitter The Bloody Chamber was mentioned most often, so here we are.
Angela Carter (1940-1992) was an English novelist, journalist, and critic known for her magical-realism style. Her stories incorporated Gothic themes, as well as eroticism, violence, and of course feminism. She studied English Literature at Bristol, and throughout her life lived all over the world, studying tales and stories from a variety of different countries and cultures; this influence can be seen clearly through her work.
She was an extremely prolific author, writing everything from novels to poems, short stories to scripts, essays to children’s books. Her novels and short stories – especially this collection – are often described as traditional fairytales with a feminist twist, but Carter said that her stories were neither retellings nor adult fairytales; rather, they were new stories based on the latent content in the original tales, which was frequently violently sexual.
I haven’t read much of this book yet, just the shortest story: The Snow Child. I found it vividly, dramatically, descriptively sexual; and interesting, thought-provoking, and just a little unsettling. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; I’m interested to read more, and I think it’ll give us a lot to discuss. But do be aware that these themes run throughout her book; remember to put your self-care first.
I’m interested to see which fairytales I’ll recognise as I read; I think Puss-in-Boots might possibly be based on Puss-in-Boots (!), but most of the others aren’t obvious from the title. They could well be tales I’ve never even heard of; as a new reader, I’m curious to see which tales I’m familiar with and which are new for me.
There are ten stories in this collection, varying in length from a single page (The Snow Child) to 42 (The Bloody Chamber); we’re planning on focussing our discussion around the titular story, but there’s scope for separate discussion posts for individual stories if we have lots to say. Let us know which you’d prefer!
I know this collection has been used as A-Level material in some schools. While there’s no faster way to ruin a book for some people than to study in school, there is usually a good reason books are chosen for study material. Hopefully this won’t put you off and you’ll come along to our (hopefully much more fun than school!) discussion anyway.
I’m really pleased we’re reading this; I love fairytales, folklore, magic, and myths, and I think a lot of you lot do, too. I really hope you read with us, enjoy it, and come for a chat about it on the 9th of April from 7.30pm (GMT) onwards.
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