October is the only month of the year that I go out of my way to find dark stories and scare myself with horror films. This year, I’m re-reading Angela Carter’s collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories for the first time since college.
The stories retell fairytales with a Gothic tone and feminist twist. It completely revitalizes the old stories, no matter how many times you’ve heard them. Stories like “The Bloody Chamber,” derived from Bluebeard, have all the slow build and poetic intensity of old-fashioned horror. But instead of seeing weak women wailing, Carter surprises by having women save the day instead of men. Though the women in the stories are often trapped in some way — by a murderous husband in one, by a gambling father in another — they are strong enough to seek their freedom. Of course, this doesn’t always ensure a happy ending.
Not to repeat all the analysis my class did in college, I’ll just say that this is a magical collection. The stories transport readers to dark mansions and snowy woods with haunting histories. All of that, along with the gorgeous prose, make it one of the few assigned college reads that I ended up adoring. I highly recommend it for the Halloween season!