The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

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‘Grand Guignol’ – Famous Parisian theatre, established in 1897 and specialising in horror. The term is often used generically, as here.

‘Carmilla’ – Title of an early vampire novel (1872) by Joseph Sheridan La Fanu. The titular character is a female vampire who preys on young women. If the Romanian countess has adopted the name as a soubriquet, then it offers further support for the suggestion that she enters wholeheartedly into some of the Marquis’s darker sexual games.

‘Rape of the Sabines’ – a common classical subject for artists. The first generation of Roman men were believed to have carried off a large number of women from another tribe (the Sabines) so that they could father children.

‘“There is a striking resemblance between the act of love and the ministrations of a torturer,” opined my husband's favourite poet’ – Baudelaire: ‘The act of love greatly resembles torture or surgery’ from Mon Coeur Mis à Nu (‘My Heart Laid Bare’), intimate diaries published in 1897.

‘catafalque’ – raised platform on which a dead body is displayed.

‘nacreous’ – having the lustre of mother-of-pearl. Possibly chosen by Carter due to its resemblance to words beginning with ‘necro-’ a prefix derived from the Greek word for the dead.

‘in Dresden’ – made from Dresden china.

‘Czerny’ – The Austrian pianist and composer Carl Czerny (1791-1857). His Etudes (‘exercises’) are referred to here.

‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ – A collection of studies by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The movement from the Romantic, impressionistic and somewhat amorphous work of Debussy to Bach’s ‘equations’ implies the narrator’s fin de siècle desire for romance and sexual experimentation has been replaced with a more precise and rational mindset. Playing these pieces is a way of bringing her thoughts back into focus after the terrible shock of discovering the Bloody Chamber.

‘like the caste mark of a brahmin woman. Or the mark of Cain.’ – The stain made by the key never fades – one of the few clearly supernatural elements in the story. These two characterisations of the mark underline its ambiguity: the positioning of the Brahmin caste mark between the eyebrows is similar to that of the familiar bindi and is emblematic of an inner, third eye of enlightenment. Through her appalling experience, the narrator has learned something hidden and secret – perhaps finally something hidden and secret about the ‘bloody chamber’ she carries within her. The mark of Cain was placed upon him to prevent him from being killed in vengeance for his brother’s murder: it makes him taboo, but also an outcast from society for the rest of his life (and in some legends he never dies).

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the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul