Throwback Thursday: Josephine's Book Edition

Angela Carter’s books have been around forever, but I hadn’t heard of her at all until a few years ago, when my Mum bought me her Book of Fairytales for Christmas. 

I’m still not sure what prompted that book choice, whether it’s the fact that it’s stunningly pretty, or whether she liked it herself or whether she just saw it and thought of me. Probably a combination of the three. I have always loved a pretty book and a fairytale. Anyway, I got it that Christmas and I loved it (if you’re not familiar with that book then you should fix that problem) and I went out and bought myself some more of Carter’s work, specifically The Bloody Chamber, Wise Children and Nights at the Circus. They’re all the Vintage copies, so it must’ve been at that Red Spine loving time. I have about ten of those I think, Grimms' Fairy Tales being one of them.

I hadn’t thought much about her for a while but I was down visiting pals last weekend and my friend Mark had left the Penguin Deluxe edition of The Bloody Chamber in his kitchen. I was drawn in by the pretty and thought ‘oh, I know this book,’ found myself flicking straight to The Courtship of Mr Lyon and thought, ‘yep, actually, I do, I love this book.’

& I know I have a copy already, but these Penguin Deluxe copies, they’re like witchcraft, you touch them and you have to have them and I got straight on the internets and ordered me a copy. Honestly, there’s really not much you can say to me about how unnecessary it is because look at me, I have the Harry Potter series twice and the number of copies of Alice I have goes into double figures. & this book is pretty, the cover is lush and the pages are all uneven and wonderful and it’s just beautiful.

Then Jen made this video and did some Twitter asking about favourite fairytales and thus, this particular Throwback Thursday had its theme.

It’s an awesome book and with the current trend for twisted fairy stories, I can't help wonder if Angela Carter – who would have been 75 this year - was one of the first to re-imagine fairytales like this? Jen will tell me, Jen knows – right Jen?

Most of the stories in this collection are familiar, some only if you squint, but all of them are dark and edgy like a good fairytale should be.

We’ve got stories based on Beauty and the Beast and Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood, and the terrifically gruesome The Snow Child which I guess you can maybe say was inspired by Snow White although, it is in no way the same story: I told you, sometimes you have to squint, and Jesus God you’ll never see this story Disney-fied. Skin as white as snow is pretty much where the similarities end I think.

Carter takes what you thought you knew about stories you grew up with and turns them on their head. Here be no damsels in distress, no princesses needing saving because Carter is Queen of the kickass female protagonist. Is this ‘feminist literature’ then? You know what, yeah, it probably is. All of Carter’s women are strong and liberated and somehow the dark and gothic settings make that all the more apparent – she tackles sexuality and sex, stereotypes, coming of age, identity and balance of power and she does it so freaking well. Probably they’ll blow your mind a little bit.

My personal faves? The Courtship of Mr. Lyon because I always love me a good Beauty and the Beast story (I think maybe the other version in the book The Tiger’s Bride got more acclaim though, certainly it’s darker and the ending has a definite twist), The Company of Wolves where Red Riding Hood is totally in control of how her story goes (she knew she was nobody’s meat) and Wolf-Alice - a girl raised by wolves, rescued by nuns and eventually sent to live with a werewolf, and a story that’s all about independence and self-discovery I think, perhaps more than any of the others. The whole collection is worth a read though and with fairytale re-tellings being A Thing right now, you could do a lot worse than The Bloody Chamber.