Thursday, 22 December 2016

"The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter - December 2016

The members of the book group were in total agreement that Angela Carter was an talented writer. A very filmic writer, she was able to conjure up place and character. One could see & hear the characters, in her stories, clearly. It came as no surprise that a number of her works had been made into films.

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of the retelling of traditional fairy tales from a feminist perspective. Carter makes her female characters active & not passive players who are acted upon. That was welcomed & must have been very much so by readers when the tales were first published in the late 1970s.

All the group agreed that not only was Angela Carter an atmospheric writer, she was also witty & funny. Her wit came through clearly, for example, in her retelling of Puss-in-Boots. Puss is crafty, clever and with a very witty turn of phrase. He is very unlike the traditional sidekick to Dick that we are used to.

Where the group split was on whether they actually liked her writing or not. The majority of the group did. For one member she was too dark, too cruel - even more so than the original fairy tales, which are full of darkness. Because she was such an excellent visual writer, one had to be in the right frame of mind & with a strong stomach to read her. For this one reader Angela Carter was too shocking and uncomfortably to be an enjoyable reader. If she intended to shock her readers, with this reader she succeeded.
By Jasmina

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

"The Black Madonna of Derby" by Joanna Czechowska - November 2016

The group agreed that this book could have been better written. However it does deal with important issues such as identity and belonging which is still very relevant today in these days of globalisation and shifting cultures. The book does shine a spotlight on life in the 1960's which was a time of great excitement and cultural awakening with the emergence of musical bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones. There are some amusing references to these bands as Wanda waits outside Paul McCartney's house in St John's Wood just to catch sight of him when he arrives home.

There is the unfair education system of the secondary modern and grammar school which selected children at the age of 11 and caused emotional damage to some children who failed to obtain a grammar school place at that time. This featured in this book and also the bullying that happened in schools. There are some amusing anecdotes as the naive Northerner Wanda accidentally plunges the sophisticated trendy London gathering into darkness throwing satire on the pompous sophistication of the in-crowd. There are allusions to the north, south divide as people from the provinces were discriminated against and marginalised because of their accents.

This book was very readable with short chapters but it cannot be considered to be great literature.
By Lydia