The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, with new illustrations by Igor Karash

12th Oct 2012


Angela Carter’s 1979 masterpiece, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, is a For Books’ Sake favourite that always merits revisiting.

This collection of re-wrought, re-imagined, feminist fairy tales that bring to the fore the darkest sides of some of our best-loved stories is rich enough to be read again and again in even the most dog-eared copy – and until The Folio Society’s latest edition, published last month, my battered paperback version served me just fine.

But a book this seminal deserves more, and now with this edition, it has been done justice. This is a gorgeous new edition – its sinister bindings, confident but comfortable size, blood-red lining and eloquent introduction by the novelist Marina Warner, a friend of Carter, all fitting trimmings for what’s found within.

This edition is also illustrated with seven newly-commissioned works by Igor Karash, a US-based, Azerbaijan-educated illustrator who was chosen for the project following the annual Book Illustration Competition, run jointly by The Folio Society and the House of Illustration (you can see entries from some of the other, shortlisted illustrators here).

From the title tale to ‘The Erl King‘ and ‘The Lady of The House of Love‘, Karash’s fittingly dark, shadowy watercolours are a fine choice to accompany Carter’s sensuous prose. Karash’s style is other-wordly and often naïve, off-kilter, menacing and gothic and sometimes almost just a little too much – just like Carter’s prose.

Illustrating a book – any book – is always a controversial decision, and to choose to illustrate writing as gloriously rich in imagery as Carter’s is especially so.

Everyone who reads her tales will have their own, private sense of how her words translate to the visual. Karash’s interpretations are just one version, and with their translucent layers and shifting perspectives, they are never offered as anything more than a suggestion, an aid and a prompt.

An illustrated version also creates an extra parallel between the childhood reading experience of fairy tales, so often first encountered in picture-books, and the experience of reading Carter’s re-worked versions.

This would make a great gift both for those who already love The Bloody Chamber or for those whom you’re keen to evangelise to. If you’re already planning for Christmas – take note.

This new illustrated edition of The Bloody Chamber is out now, available from The Folio Society, priced at £24.95.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended for:  Those who already know and love the book already, as well as anyone who doesn’t yet, but should.

Claire Strickett