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Midnight Musings: Book Review

The Bloody Chamber
(Angela Carter)

(as reviewed by the webmistress on Amazon.com)

July 24, 2000

Delicious, witty, shivery, unseelie...a dark delight.

I discovered Angela Carter via the fantasy/horror film "The Company of Wolves," for which she wrote the screenplay, adapted from one of the short stories in "The Bloody Chamber." Since then I've read two of her novels and two books of short stories, and this one remains the best by far.

All the stories are good, but the title one particularly so; it inspired me to spend $35 I didn't have in order to experience the taste of cointreau (the liqueur the heroine sipped after dinner with Bluebeard)...it was exotic, tropical, sweet-sour-bitter, with a strangely insinuating warmth...not unlike the prose itself.

The vampire story is a perfect analogy of beautiful, rotting, slightly ridiculous old-world European romanticism coming to its denouement in the bleak light of modernism, appropriately timed to World War I, appropriately personified in an innocent (but just as doomed, and what does that tell us?) blond soldier.

And I must especially praise "The Erl-King" -- it put me in mind, somehow, of a disillusioned Lady Chatterley creeping one last time to the hut of a mossy, malevolent Mellors, in a voluptuously violent autumnal reversal of the spring marriage of John Thomas and Lady Jane.

In short, it's a mouthwatering book -- so evocative, so subtly disturbing, such texture and richness...and all the more memorable for the occasional touches of dark, edgy, cynical wit. Anne Rice is to cheap triple sec as Angela Carter is to cointreau. I'd kiss the late Ms. Carter's decaying feet if I could, and perhaps she'd appreciate that.

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