Halloween Reading

Happy Halloween! Or Samhain (I tend to celebrate a funny mixture of both).

I have been reading some seasonally appropriate books today, and thought I’d just recommend them for anyone who’s interested. Firstly there is:

The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade, art by Kristina Tsenova

The Convergence of Fairytales by Octavia Cade

The Sleeping Beauty woke with a heartbeat between her legs.

I have literally just finished reading this, and it was something of a tour-de-force. A compelling mixture of horror, fairytale, vengeance and beauty, Octavia Cade really gets to grips with some of the oft skimmed over aspects of the fairytale. Such as, for example, the original ending of Sleeping Beauty. Trigger warning, there is rape: it does not happen on the page (as the character is asleep), however most of the story is dealing with the aftermath so if you think that’s something that you’d struggle with, approach with care and look after yourself.

Having said that, I really enjoyed this. Octavia Cade has a skill for description that is both precise and vivid, and her sentences are sharp things. The book is presented as a set of short stories, however read through they all bleed one into the other; this is a style that I am particularly fond of (for other examples of this, see Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch) not least because I get nervous about how I’m meant to read short stories.

The tales balance between horror and fairytale, sometimes tipping from one into the other in the space of a word. In a way, they felt luxuriant. I think that was probably the effect of Octavia Cade’s language skills. They were also full of a deep, pounding rage that splintered and grew and bubbled up in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. As someone who loves fairytales, but has been reading them with a critical eye since I became old enough to ask why the princesses always needed rescuing, I found that rage familiar. I shall definitely be re-reading this at some point, and I strongly recommend this to fans of horror, gothic tales and anyone who’s ever preferred an evil queen to a princess. Fantastic stuff.

PS there’s a giveaway competition on the publisher’s website, meaning you could get a free copy of this! Click here.

Secondly there is:

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I remember how, that night, I lay awake in the wagon-lit in a tender, delicious ecstasy of excitement, my burning cheek pressed against the impeccable linen of the pillow and the pounding of my heart mimicking that of the great pistons ceaselessly thrusting the train that bore me through the night, away from Paris, away from girlhood, away from the white, enclosed quietude of my mother’s apartment, into the unguessable country of marriage.

Now this collection I have only just started (and really I’m amazed I’ve come this far in my life without reading it yet). So far, it is simply stunning. I have in all honesty had to read it with a dictionary to hand (deliquescent, voluptuary and missal being some of the new words I’ve come across), but that hardly detracts. Angela Carter is a writer that I already enjoy, although most of my experience of her so far is from her collections of fairytales. I am very much enjoying getting to know the her style when it is not dictated by the simplicity of the stories she has collected.

I’ve only read two of the stories so far, and my head is full of images, of words and feelings and the sea washing away the shore, a woman desperately racing a horse against the tide. Usually, I wouldn’t recommend a book before finishing it, but I think it’s a safe bet that this collection will carry on being wonderful, cutting, funny and awesome. I’m looking forward to curling up with this book and a blanket later tonight, and perhaps never ever sleeping…

And that’s it – have a great evening everyone!

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