What it’s about: Carter’s reworked fairy tales revolve around the theme of young women (and sometimes men) crossing the threshold into adulthood, generally through sexual experiences.
Why I liked it: While each story in this short collection is a retelling of a well-known fairy tale, Carter actually incorporates allusions to many folktales and children’s stories into each one. It would be fun to read through carefully and pick out all the references. Using children’s literature in this way contrasts with the lush sexual imagery and the frequently earthy language (Carter doesn’t shy away from having her characters fart and piss and show their genitals). The stories are set in a fantasy version of Europe, one with isolated castles and dense, wolf-filled forests but with a foot in the modern world. Her mostly female characters usually begin as fairy tale tropes–girls who are not in control of their own lives but who are sold or taken by men–but these girls soon discover their own power and use that to regain control over their lives. This transformation typically begins with a disrobing, a stripping away of all the expectations and assumptions of what it means to be a girl, so each women can define herself for herself. Carter explores different ways this can happen, usually by subverting the original tale in some way: Red Riding Hood seduces the wolf; Beauty reveals her inner Beast. Carter’s style is lush and overflowing with sometimes overwhelming, frequently horrific imagery.
You might like it if: you’re interested in feminist literature or you enjoy grown-up retellings of fairy tales.