Angela Carter For Boys – mythic, subversive, dark
My title does not imply that this isn’t a wonderful read for girls and women, just that where Carter often ‘rewrites’ the fairy story from the perspective of the female characters, and explores the inner lessons of myths and fairy stories for women’s ‘heroic journeyings’, Connolly has a young boy, on the edge of adolescence, whose journey is explored, and he meets a particularly strong cast of male archetypes, as he makes his hero’s journey, and discovers what being a hero is really about, and what it means to accept the challenge and face one’s shadow.
This was a wonderful, and surprising read for me – came from an Amazon recc because I loved Susanna Clarke’s ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’
I’ve never read any of Connolly’s other writings, and gather that he seems to write 2 – or maybe even 3, sorts of novels.
This is a reworking, or perhaps an underneath working, an inner working, of various fairy stories. Beautifully written, its like a cross between the aforementioned Angela Carter in ‘Company of Wolves’ mode, and George MacDonald Fraser (the Curdie books) Fairy stories are pretty dark and subversive anyway – or at least the Grimm versions are, not the prettified Perrault workings, which take the deep truth, magic and shadow element away.
Connolly goes back to the heart (or should i say the jugular!!) of the stories, and subverts the subversion further. – its a bit like reading Jung, – you get incredible psychoanalytic depth – but, hey, this is a fairytale, and the writing is quite clear and spare.
There’s (a bit) of welcome light relief, in the form of the Seven Dwarfs, who are Marxist-Leninists, – they aren’t too keen on princes (or on Snow White, who is a bully with an eating disorder!) – best laugh out loud moment was the description of the Prince who ‘ponces in on his horse like a great big perfumed teacosy’ – to a Snow White with more than a touch of PC attitude about being kissed by a strange man!
From here in things get very dark indeed. The background of the story is set in 39, so there is a very dark subtext to the ‘Huntress’ story, in the light of how ‘science’ and ‘scientific research’ was proceeding in concentration camps.
This is definitely a book for re-reading – it is very easy to read, but touches deep.