Phew, I made it.
I didn’t think I would, it’s been quite a hard book to get into and I had to fight until the very end to finish it.
Angela Carter is an author famous for her rich imagination and has a knack for taking fairy tales back to their beginnings, needless to say they’re not suitable for children. When I was at college I read another collection of short stories by her called The Bloody Chamber and I was quite impressed with it, however I don’t think I could ever bring myself to read this one again.
Completed shortly before she died of lung cancer in 1992 this book of fairy tales has a collection of stories from all over the world, some of them exceedingly similar some of them altogether quite nonsensical and while I would love to marvel at her imagination all I can think is ‘well thank god that’s over.’
That’s not to say it was horrid, but I think I can say with some certainty that I am not a short story person because my main complaints stem from that. I like getting to know characters and seeing them grow but here it’s only a few pages before they get their happy ending or end up being eaten by members of their family and then it’s onto the next story.
Sometimes the stories are so similar to ones told earlier in the book that there was hardly any point reading to the end because I knew what would happen.
Also there’s the fact that it wasn’t entirely what I expected. The Bloody Chamber had stories full of substance and characters that developed quite well and the tales told were not easy to forget, plus there was a lot of gore, vague endings and an incredible use of language.
This book was lacking in all respects. It started off promisingly enough, there was a tale similar to The Bloody Chamber where a woman goes to her betrothed’s home and finds a room full of dead women (in The Bloody Chamber the woman is newly married and left alone in her new home and her husband makes her promise not to go into a certain room, but one day curiosity gets the better of her and she goes in and sees a lot of torture devices one being an iron maiden, the spikes of which are still covered in blood from the husband’s last wife). Yet the potential sort of petered out and then picked up again in the middle when it seemed that in almost every story everyone was cooked and eaten.
Of course it was enjoyable at some points. There were quite a few stories that made it worth trawling through such as Now I should Laugh, If I were Not Dead which tells of two wives proving what fools their husbands are, one following along the lines of The Emperor’s New Clothes and the other convincing him the he is dead. East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon was good as well (these are just a couple, can’t be bothered to list them all haha).
It’s also a sort of lesson in culture too, which I always appreciate, I love to know things about different cultures. While I don’t really know anything about fairy tales from country to country I like to think that this book has taught me a little. For instance not all of them end with ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’ At the end of a Palestinian Arab tale it says; ‘This is my tale, I’ve told it; and in your hands I leave it’ this crops up in a few other stories as well, I just like that she’s included the different endings.
Anyway, I digress slightly. If you’re a fan of short stories I’m sure you will have no problem with this book, It is a matter of personal preference, and I for one like to sit down with a nice long novel which has a story that carries on for a few more instalments.
If you’ve read it what did you think?