What’s The Bloody Chamber all about?:
This story follows our female narrator as she marries a wealthy French Marquis and discovers the secrets lurking in his castle.
What did I think?:
Full disclosure, I have already reviewed The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories by Angela Carter some time ago on my blog however when I realised the title story of that collection was the next story in Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women I jumped at the chance to review it individually and in more detail. I have a lingering memory of the events in this little tale and in fact, it remains so far my very favourite Angela Carter short story so as you can imagine, I can already highly recommend it. Angela Carter never fails to blow me away with her proficiency of the English language and her stark, poetic choice of words and phrases. Re-reading this story gave me the perfect opportunity to enjoy her talent even more as I already knew how it was all going to play out in the end. I could simply sit back and just enjoy a true master at work.
The Bloody Chamber, like the rest of the stories in the collection of the same name is based on an old fairy-tale but I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly tell you which one. It would give away simply far too many details! I can tell you it involves a seventeen year old girl who marries a rich man and is spirited away to his castle to begin married life. She has her doubts about her new husband, particularly when she finds out he has been married three times before but he is prepared to give her everything she could ever dream of, including a grand piano on which she can indulge her one obsession, playing music. It’s not long however, as she explores the castle when her husband is away on business that she discovers his greatest secret and everything from here on will never be the same again.
I have to admit, this story does start off a little slow. It’s one of Angela Carter’s longer works of short fiction I’ve experienced so far and it takes a while to set the scene with our heroine mainly describing her relationship with her mother, nurse and the beginnings of the relationship with her husband to be. We get a sense of a very naive, innocent young girl at first who then quickly realises the ways of the world when she comes across some pornographic images in her husband’s library on first entering the castle. It’s not until this point that the story really starts to kick into gear and the reader begins to understand the kind of situation that our protagonist may have entered into.
As always, Angela Carter’s writing is nothing short of exquisite and each word appears to have been lusciously chosen to illustrate impending doom and the hopelessness of our main character’s mood. From the choker of rubies round the young wife’s neck to the way she describes her husband i.e. comparing him to a lily and wearing a mask that she wishes she could remove so she could see the real man underneath, everything is told in such glorious detail it’s an absolute pleasure to experience and makes for an shocking, unforgettable story. I do understand that some people might not gel with Carter’s style, particularly if you’re not a fan of magical realism but if you haven’t read any of the author’s work before this is one of the most perfect places to start. It’s a shining example of her writing, it’s not too “out there” or quirky and it’s immensely readable.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Underhouse by Gerard Woodward from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.