(Audio)Book Talk: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

In my first job at the *Carolyn Sifton-Helen Fuld Libray at St. Boniface Hospital, I had access to University of Manitoba’s vast collection as a staff member. I took out Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, only to carry it around for a while until I finally returned it, consigning it to my ever-growing and imagined TBR pile. Angela Carter fascinated me, and my first introduction to her work came by way of a movie poster for In The Company of Wolves:

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I remember seeing this movie poster in the newspaper in 1985, already on a vampire/werewolf craze and the first of many such things in my life. The stories provided a jolt of fear for someone nearly scared of everything at the time and sexy. With no access to erotica, these sorts of stories explored things kept in the shadows, the place where sexuality and violence oddly coexist. I had no idea Carter explored both aspects, pioneered the fairy-tale retelling, and inspired writers in fantasy and horror.

Thanks to Audible, two things collided namely Carter’s classic collection and Richard Armitage. Lately, I found myself on an audiobook streak, and they remind me of days sitting cross-legged on the carpet for read-aloud sessions in elementary school. Armitage talked about his at length during the Hobbit press interviews, hearing the teacher read n a variety of voices firing up his imagination. Me too, I thought, me too. With Emilia Fox as a bonus, I still remember her turn in Merlin, I pre-ordered the audiobook with my credit.

What a ride, a literal one as the book played in my car. The title retells the Bluebeard tale as if its an original work, giving colour to the girl and the murderous Marquis as the story unfolds with Fox’s narration, a great equal to Richard Armitage. (Hey, Audible, more team-ups with these two please.) I enjoyed the twist at the end to the timeless tale, and I will not spoil it by telling you but go read it or hear it. Perhaps the best story, the kind described as Carter being light-hearted also contains some of the best smut I ever head, her retelling of Puss in Boots. Even better, Richard Armitage read that one and the way he read this beginning nearly drove me off the road:

Figaro here; Figaro, there, I tell you! Figaro upstairs, Figaro downstairs and–oh, my goodness me, this little Figaro can slip into my lady’s chamber smart as you like at any time whatsoever that he takes the fancy for, don’t you know, he’s a cat of the world, cosmopolitan, sophisticated; he can tell when a furry friend is the Missus’ best company. For what lady in all the world could say ‘no’ to the passionate yet toujours discret advances of a fine marmalade cat? (Unless it be her eyes incontinently overflow at the slightest whiff of fur, which happened once, as you shall hear.)

In his voice, I heard fun and had fun along with him. It’s a raunchy tale providing a breather to some heavy stories and concepts throughout the collection. It’s the wolf-centred tales, most of them heard in the dark before bed, showcasing Carter’s power of a storyteller. Its violence showing the relationship between man and beast within one person. These are more than fluffy stories, told to give a good scare, they are tales asking to probe the beast within, male and female and all genders in between.

Angela Carter died in 1992 at 51, with a known body of work yet a sense of what more she could accomplish had she lived. More and more women dominate the genre field and many current articles I read wondered how she would take on resisting Orange Voldemort in story form. While she passed away young, her legacy proves ageless as Emilia Fox and Richard Armitage gives new voices to old stories, based on even older ones.

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