The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

Okay, I promise faithfully not to do another Carter review until I have balanced it out with some other writers – then I’ll be back Carter-ing with a vengeance. Oh, and for the record: This isn’t the cover I wanted to represent The Magic Toyshop, but the one I wanted wasn’t available large enough or in the correct format. This one, I believe, was one of the original covers.

Melanie and her two younger siblings are sent to live with their uncle Philip, his wife Margaret and her brothers, Finn and Francis in London – where their uncle runs a toyshop. In this claustrophobic, highly psychological bildungroman we follow Melanie as everything she knew and was previously is destroyed by the machinations of the malign Philip Flowers.

The Magic Toyshop is one of those novels which attains the true mark of literary greatness, namely it stays with you long after it’s over. You’ll be in the bath, on the train, watching TV months after you finished reading it and it will suddenly pop into your head. This is one of the many beauties of Carter. She suceeds in creating such a claustrophobic, gothic atmosphere with such a deft touch that it’s impossible to deny its power. And this is leaving all the sexual awakening stuff, creepy puppets and overgrown parks with derelict statues in.

5 out of 5, read it or regret it. Twi-hard with a vengeance until next time!

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

You will either love this book, or think it’s too weird for you – either way you can’t  help but admire it…

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of short stories which takes the base-materials of popular fairy tales and folklore and interprets them in a whole new way. Quite frankly, it’s bloody genius; you find yourself thinking that Carter’s re-interpretations are better than the original – notably on the re-workings of Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard. You will never look at the relationship between Red and the wolf the same way again.

There are so many stand-out tales which I could single out for praise, that I would end up giving up all of the goodies that The Bloody Chamber has to offer – half the fun of the first time that you read it is wondering what the hell Carter will pull out of the bag next – but I will tell you to look out particularly for a Puss-In-Boots that wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On film, and a transformation which doesn’t quite go according to convention. 

The actual quality of writing is simply amazing. There are phrases within the stories which are simply delicious AND original; the characterisation is believable, and in places actually very funny. Carter is an arch-manipulator of the reader’s emotions and takes you from the extreme to extreme effortlessly, alternately severely disturbing the reader with familiar formulae and satisfying them by twisting the same.

5 out of 5, read it  or regret it. Twi-hard with a vengeance until next time!

Dracula – Bram Stoker

I suppose it seems appropriate, given the name of the site, to start with a vampire novel..

Lawyer Jonathan Harker goes to the mysterious Castle Dracula in Transylvania, in order to assist his client – the eponymous Dracula – in buying some properties in England. However, all is not as it seems (when is it ever?) and Harker’s suspicions are soon roused at the beginning of a chain of a events which will have far reaching ramifications back in England.

I wish I could tell you that Dracula and Harker end up together, God knows that would be a far more interesting book – but this is Stoker and Dracula is a shockingly awful novel. It is fair to say that there is a good central idea at the heart of Dracula, that of the vampire himself, and that is why it has survived so long – but the quality of writing, characterisation, plot structure and pace is just…bad.

I admit that some of the problem comes as being part of a modern readership; it must have been amazing to read Dracula when it first came out and have no clue he’s a vampire, but I spent the middle third of the novel screaming: “He’s a VAMPIRE!!! You pea-brained twits!!!” However, everyone knows how Romeo and Juliet ends – but people still see it beause it is absolutely sublime. And also, it is absolutely undeniable that there are pacing issues throughout, particularly in the middle.

The first section is alright, as it’s fairly clearly written and Stoker’s appalling characterisation hasn’t had a chance to come to the fore yet. But when it does, it’s terrible: Stoker’s women are little better than tissue-paper dolls and demons, the men are so two-dimensional it’s laughable and don’t even get me started on the stilted, unrealistic dialogue. No wonder Dracula wants to kill them.

1.5 out of 5, and that is being bloody generous.

Twi-hard with a vengeance till next time!

Hello Book Vampires!

Hillo, Book Vampires! (No, that’s not a typo). Welcome, I aim to produce a compendium of reviews which the bored Book Vampire may peruse to find inspiration for their next read. By “Book Vampire” I, of course, refer to people who read a lot, or at least would if they had the time – not Dracula, Edward Cullen, Lestat, or Bill Compton. They’re welcome to read if they want to, but they’re not my primary audience. 😀

Mua ha ha ha! (Until I can think of a better sign-off…)