The Literary Horizon: The Bloody Chamber, Rose Daughter

Fairy tales are ripe for retellings, the publishing industry’s kinder, gentler way of referring to fanfiction of all stripes. I certainly read plenty of them, but I still have plenty on the old reading list.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

An absorbing collection of dark, sensual, and fantastic stories inspired by the fairy tales and legends of Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves, and more.

via publisher’s website

Angela Carter grabbed my attention when I first heard of Nights at the Circus (which I also want to read), but when I heard about The Bloody Chamber, I was intrigued. Dark reimaginings (publishing industry, let’s call a spade a spade; it’s fanfic. You’re making my head spin here) sound like good fun, especially after you know what’s really going on behind a story like, say, “Beauty and the Beast”.

While Eva of A Striped Armchair enjoyed it, she was also startled by how in-your-face the short stories were about their dark and often sexual nature. The webmaster of Stainless Steel Droppings thoroughly enjoyed it, and finds Carter’s use of sexuality not gratuitous or titillating, but organic to the story. Which I sorely need; I can’t tell you how many books I want to fling across the room for having unnecessary sex scenes.

The Bloody Chamber was published in 1979.

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Twenty years ago, Robin McKinley dazzled readers with the power of her novel Beauty. Now this extraordinarily gifted novelist returns to the story of Beauty and the Beast with a fresh perspective, ingenuity, and mature insight. With Rose Daughter, she presents her finest and most deeply felt work–a compelling, richly imagined, and haunting exploration of the transformative power of love.

Robin McKinley’s Beauty and I did not get on. At all. I have an odd relationship with McKinley; because I enjoyed Sunshine so much, I keep picking through her bibliography and not being impressed (although I usually enjoy myself… usually). But I’ve been recommended Rose Daughter as a solution to my problems with Beauty, and, while the twist is blindingly obvious, it sounds interesting.

Fyrefly at Fyrefly’s Book Blog notes that the story focuses on Beauty’s stay in the castle with the invisible helpers and McKinley’s… unique prose. Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews found its single-minded focus on gardening and cats to be boring. I’m still going to read it—must avenge the hours I spent on Beauty!—but now I’m a little fearful.

Rose Daughter was published in June of 1997.

10 thoughts on “The Literary Horizon: The Bloody Chamber, Rose Daughter

  1. I have the same problem with McKinley – some of her books I like, some not so much, and nothing has bowled me over (although I haven’t read Sunshine yet). BUT, Rose Daughter is my least favorite of her books that I’ve read.

    What didn’t you like about Beauty that you’re planning to avenge with Rose Daughter? Could you do it with another of McKinley’s books instead?

  2. I don’t think Rose Daughter is going to avenge the Beauty experience. I hated Rose Daughter. Of all McKinley’s books Rose Daughter is the only one that I actively hated and wanted my time back. But then, I loved Beauty.

  3. The Bloody Chamber is possibly my favorite short story collection. The prose is dazzling, and the subject matter truly dark and subversive (except for maybe Puss in Boots. . .)

    Rose Daughter I have mixed feelings about. It’s more mature and darker than Beauty, but I still prefer Beauty’s sparkliness and youth, even if some of the plotting, depth, and pacing was lacking. Go figure. (Have you ever read McKinley’s Damar books?)

  4. Have you read McKinley’s ‘Deerskin’? That’s one very dark fairy-tale re-telling (and one in which the love story doesn’t feel forced).

    I liked ‘Rose Daughter’ but I felt it verged too far from the fairy-tale, especially when compared to ‘Beauty’ (though I’d agree with you about the ending of ‘Beauty’). I haven’t re-read it. I’ve only read ‘The Magic Toyshop’ by Angela Carter, and wasn’t entirely impressed.

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