I was very excited to read this book after it was described as a feminist retelling of fairy tales. But I was kind of disappointed by the stories. Some were good, but others were very confusing and just weird.
The writing was very complex, which I think was good and bad at the same time. At times, Carter creates descriptions that are truly amazing. She demonstrates her mastery of language. But other times the writing just seemed to go too in-depth without furthering the plot. This made some of the stories a little boring for me. There were too many descriptions and not enough movement of the story.
"The Bloody Chamber" was by far my favorite. This one definitely met my expectations. It was a cool retelling and I loved the empowering ending. A lot of descriptions, but they added to the story for the most part.
"The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" and "The Tiger's Bride" were both okay. They were retellings of Beauty and the Beast, but I didn't really see the point of them. At times they were very creepy, and not in a good way.
I did like "Puss in Boots", because of the feline narrator, but the story itself was a little off-putting. Silly, juvenile love stuff that was often humorous, but took a pretty dark turn at the end.
"The Erl King" was really confusing and I did not like the heroine very much until the very end.
"The Snow Child" was my least favorite. It was disgusting and had no point to it whatsoever. It's a very short tale, but every word of it made me grimace.
And the rest of the tales ("The Lady of the House of Love", "The Werewolf", "The Company of Wolves", and "Wolf-Alice") were all overly descriptive, sensual vampire and werewolf stories with lots of sex stuff. Not really my kind of thing.
Overall, it was a good book, but there was definitely a range of stories. Most of them included blood (menses) and sex, which seemed to be the "feminist" aspect of the story, but there is more to feminism than women who enjoy sex. Definitely worth reading solely for the story, "The Bloody Chamber" though.
So some friends were giving away second-hand books as wedding favours (which, I wish I had had that idea) and Nights at the Circus was on the book table. I'd heard of Angela Carter before as a literary feminist writer of dark fairy tales, so I wasn't sure precisely what to expect.
Nights at the Circus, set in 1899 at the very end of the Victorian era, follows Fevvers, a lower-class London woman touring Europe and America as an aerialiste. She claims to have wings: huge, feathered things in various luminous colours. Is she telling the truth? Walser, an American journalist, joins the circus she's touring with in order to find out.
So Nights at the Circus is, um, bizarre. It's about the people on the edge of polite society creating their own communities; people who are othered and made into freaks by grinding capitalism and patriarchy, and their subtle rebellions. Carter has this hallucinatory mode of writing which throws little (or not-so-little) bits of fantasy into what masquerades as a realist text, that throw you (did that really just happen?) and glance you off into the next adventure which then, again, turns odd and metaphoric. It's a lovely subversion of Victorian-realist norms which reflects the novel's subversion of patriarchal rationalism.
It's fairly heavy going - continually aware of itself as Literary text playing off other literary texts. But if this is your kind of thing, it's also hugely interesting, chock-full of imaginative potential, revising minorities into textual history before diversity was a corporate buzzword. "Radical", I think the appropriate word is.