Black Venus

At the weekend I decided to do a last minute sign up to Angela Carter Week, a week hosted by Delia at Postcards from Asia and Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. So off I strolled to my library to get out some Angela Carter books.



Black Venus is a collection is short stories either retelling different events from history, such as the murders committed by Lizzie Borden or just an interesting narrative on points in history in general. It would take too long and be far too tedious to mention every story in detail, but there were certainly ones I preferred above others. I found I didn’t care too much for the ones that focused on real life historical characters, such as Edgar Allan Poe or Baudelaire’s mistress. I found them too confusing and thus not overly memorable. If I’m honest I wasn’t really hooked by the first story and was almost tempted to read a different book. And then I read story number two The Kiss.

The Kiss was such a sweet short story set in Central Asia; I would say it was similar to a folk tale. Although only a couple of pages long it centres on a Tamburlaine’s wife and her hopes to finish a building before her husband returns from war. There is a lovely moral message told through eggs and vodka, random I know but I’m not giving anything away. It was just a lovely little story that made me think.

Other favourite stories from the collection include Our Lady of the Massacre about a runaway British girl who becomes part of a Native American tribe in the 1600s; The Kitchen Child about a boy who was born and raised in the kitchen of an English country house and Peter and the Wolf mainly about Peter and a girl raised by wolves.

This was certainly an interesting collection of stories and I love Carter’s description and the elegance of her writing. There is some bizarre and sometimes grotesque imagery throughout, but that is what makes it unique. And I like spotting the various allusions to other works of literature or art etc.

I think I am definitely going to read another Angela Carter book next, but which one? I was luckily enough to find a copy of The Bloody Chamber in the school library and that is the one I really want to read so maybe I’ll go there next.


Reading the Twentieth Century >

8 thoughts on “Black Venus

  1. Lovely review. I’m glad you enjoyed this and I loved that you picked another story as a favourite. I’ve only read a few of the stories in this collection but not The Kiss so I’m really looking forward to reading it.
    I find that we have a similar reaction to her collections. Some stories, while very good, don’t speak to me while others just blow me away. I prefer to read one of her novels after having read a collection of short stories as they are not so dense – in meaning and allusions. But The Bloody Chamber is great.

  2. I agree with Caroline that The Bloody Chamber is an excellent collection. I really like the ‘Black Venus story’, but I suppose that’s because I’m interested in Baudelaire and I love the way Carter gives an (imagined) voice to the mysterious Ms Duval. I haven’t read the entire Black Venus collection for a while, but I remember liking some stories more than others.

    1. I completely agree with you; I think if I knew more about Baudelaire then I might have enjoyed that story more. I think it is only natural to like some stories more than others and as I don’t often read short stories it was interesting to discover that element of reading.

  3. The Bloody Chamber is wonderful, but like this collection, some of the stories resonate more than others.
    I’m quite enjoying the Black Venus story so far and hope to read the Lizzie Borden before tomorrow is done – it’s interesting reading a story based on facts as opposed to her fairy tale versions.

    1. I’ve only just started The Bloody Chamber so I’m interested to see if I have a similar reaction in terms of liking the different stories.

  4. I was torn between reading either Black Venus or Fireworks as I wanted to read some of Carter’s short stories. I decided on Fireworks in the end but I look forward to reading Black Venus after reading your review. It has given me more of an insight as to what to expect from it!

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