Tis’ the season to read Angela Carter

the bloody chamberIt’s that time of year again where I want to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. But when it’s frosty and grey outside I want a specific book, you know what I mean? I want a book that’s as cold and cruel as the weather right now- a book that really makes you feel like winter is here. So what is better than a few fairy tales…with a twist. Put away your well-thumbed copies of A Christmas Carol and go out and buy The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by British writer Angela Carter.

Carter beautifully and extraordinarily twists the traditional fairy tale, creating a wonderful collection of short stories that are dark, sensual and utterly seductive. Some of the fairy tales she explicitly bases her writing on are Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood; it makes modern fantasy Twilight look even more laughable.Where fairy tales were once used to imbed moral vitues in children, Carter transforms these outdated fairy tales so that she can portray her own ideas, and it is this which makes her stories so dark and gripping to read. Some of these ideas challenge female identity, sexual liberation, corruption and the way women are stereotypically represented in fairy tales, all contrasted with some traditional elements of gothic fiction. You’ll find yourself being seduced by her writing and the vivid images she so flawlessly creates. An actual genius, whose own passion and fierceness in her writing completely surpasses the labels of ‘feminisism’ and ‘anti-patriarchy’ that some critics have tried to dub her work. You can’t confine this sort of writing to just labels.

‘And I began to shudder, like a racehorse before a race, yet also with a kind of fear, for I felt both a strange, impersonal arousal at the thought of love and at the same time a repugnance I could not stifle for his white, heavy flesh that had too much in common with the armfuls of arum lilies that filled my bedroom in great glass jars, those undertakers’ lilies with the heavy pollen that powders your fingers as if you had dipped them in tumeric.  The lilies I always associate with him; that are white.  And stain you’- The Bloody Chamber.

A beautifully descriptive and fantastical set of tales that play with and distort convention, I can think of no better book to read this winter than Angela Carter’s selection of short stories.