Wednesday 11 June 2014

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber is the main story in Angela Carter's short story collection, of the same name, first published in 1979.

It turned out to be a tremendous way for me to start off Angela Carter Week. The general consensus seems to be that it is one of her most perfectly constructed tales. Full of evocative language, saucy details, oodles of allusions and symbols and a lovely feminist twist.

The Bloody Chamber is an intense, dark, luscious, stirring, eerie tale in the style of Perrault's fairytale, Bluebeard, that explores the nature of curiosity & destiny.

We are constantly & beautifully reminded of these two themes,

In the train en route to the castle 
"Our destination, my destiny."

In the castle library
"The picture had a caption: 'Reproof of curiosity.'"

Upon receiving the keys to the castle
"I lay in our wide bed accompanied by, a sleepless companion, my dark newborn curiosity."

On being discovered
"I had played a game in which every move was governed by a destiny as oppressive and omnipotent as himself, since that destiny was himself; and I had lost."

Fairy tales traditionally require the maiden in distress to be rescued by their father, brother or lover.
But from the very beginning of The Bloody Chamber we know there are no brothers and no father. The lover who presents himself half way through is young and blind.
Will she be a victim or a heroine?

How will she escape her destiny? 

Her acceptance also seems her doom:

"I knew no good Breton earth would cover me, like a last, faithful lover; I had another fate."

That is until her wild haired, horse riding, service revolver toting mother bursts through the castle gates and she discovers that 

"her future looks quite different now that she has escaped from the old story and is learning to sing a new song.
(from Helen Simpson's Introduction 2006).

I thoroughly enjoyed this old tale retold with a modern sensibility & I hope the rest of the collection lives up to my raised expectations.


  1. Anonymous11/6/14

    You make me want to read this again. I remember liking the whole collection a great deal but some prefer this story to the rest.
    I'm interested to see how you'll get on with the others. I like this quote "I lay in our wide bed accompanied by, a sleepless companion, my dark newborn curiosity." The curiosity theme is recurring it seems. I find it interesting thst she pairs its liberating qualities with the price the heroines pay. She doesn't downplay the price.

    1. Yes, the freedom and liberty that this marriage provided was a very high price indeed! One could say "out of the frying pan..."!
      I think that's where some of her fatalism comes in - to use another clich├ę "she made her bed..."

      The next three stories will be up tomorrow.

      I'm actually having lots of fun reading and researching these stories - thanks so much for co-hosting this event :-)

  2. I love this story and the whole collection. You're in for a treat :)

  3. Anonymous11/6/14

    I enjoyed this collection overall, too. Although I have to admit that I was not familiar with the Bluebeard tale and couldn't figure out which fairy tale was the basis for The Bloody Chamber. :)

  4. I've been dying to read this quite awhile, yet I'm attempting to clear some of my current reads. But oh, this looks good! Thanks for tempting me, Brona! :-)


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