Review: ‘Angela Carter’s Book of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women’ edited by Angela Carter

Blurb from GoodReads: 

This bestselling collection of stories extols the female virtues of discontent, sexual disruptiveness and bad manners Here are subversive tales – by Ama Ata Aidoo, Jane Bowles, Angela Carter, Colette, Bessie Head, Jamaica Kincaid and Katherine Mansfield among others – all have one thing in common: the wish to restore adventuresses and revolutionaries to their rightful position as models for all women

Reflecting the wide-ranging intelligence and deliciously anarchic taste of Angela Carter, some of these stories celebrate toughness and resilience, some of them low cunning: all of them are about not being nice.

Review:

This is a thought-provoking and undoubtedly provocative anthology for anyone who likes their short stories with a kick and a knowing wink. It’s a subversive and diverse collection bringing together some of the best women writers of the 20th century, and some others less well known- including Colette (whose work I love,) Katherine Mansfield, noted Surrealist Leonora Carrington, Vernon Lee (real name: Violet Paget,) and of course the late, great Angela Carter herself. I have to admit it’s a bit dull in parts and strangely nonsensical in others-‘Plums’ by Ama Ata Aidoo left me frankly bewildered, and although I enjoyed Colette’s description of Montmartre life in ‘The Rainy Moon’, I felt it dragged at points and was far too long. (That was probably the style of the time though, and fits in with other stories by Colette that I have read.) My favourite stories by far included the dark and luxurious ‘The Loves of Lady Purple’ by Angela Carter (a classic that I have re-read many times, but still enjoyed reading again,)’The Debutante’ by Leonora Carrington: zany-with-a-gruesome-twist-and ‘The Earth’ by the incredibly-talented and in my opinion, frankly underrated Djuna Barnes. I’ve been a fan of Barnes’s work ever since my time as an undergraduate many moons ago, when I chose to write an independent project on her amazing short story ‘A Night Among the Horses,‘ and I’m looking forward to devouring her seminal novel ‘Nightwood’ soon. I also enjoyed Angela Carter‘s introduction.

Be warned, many of the stories in this collection aren’t ‘easy reads’- some are as bizarre as they are bleak, and to me it was a bit of a curate’s egg, with some notable exceptions (no Dorothy Parker, for instance? Eh?) but fans of short stories may find a few gems to savour here. The full line-up of stories follows as thus:

-The Last Crop’ by Elizabeth Jolley
• ‘The Débutante’ by Leonora Carrington
• ‘From The Gloria Stories’ by Rocky Gámez
• ‘Life’ by Bessie Head
• ‘A Guatemalan Idyll’ by Jane Bowles
• ‘The Young Girl’ by Katherine Mansfield
• ‘Three Feminist Fables’ by Suniti Namjoshi
• ‘The Rainy Moon’ by Colette
• ‘Wedlock’ by George Egerton
• ‘Violet’ by Frances Towers
• ‘The Plums’ by Ama Ata Aidoo
• ‘A Woman Young and Old’ by Grace Paley
• ‘The Long Trial’ by André Chedid
• ‘The Loves of Lady Purple’ by Angela Carter
• ‘The Earth’ by Djuna Barnes
• ‘Oke of Okehurst’ by Vernon Lee
• ‘Girl’ by Jamaica Kincaid:
• ‘Aunt Liu’ by Luo Shu

Overall rating: 5.5 out of 10

Read if you enjoyed: ‘Fireworks’ by Angela Carter,Angela Carter‘s Book of Fairytales,’ ‘My Mother’s House’ by Colette, ‘The Selected Work of Djuna Barnes.’

Image via wolfmonsters on Tumblr

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