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There is an astonishing extravivid materiality to this alternative world she invented, down to the last sensuous detail, like the candle which drops hot wax on to the girl's bare shoulders in "The Tiger's Bride". She loved to describe the trappings of luxury, to display rich scenery in rich language. Dialogue came less naturally to her and she avoided it for years, joking that the advantage of including animal protagonists in her work was that she did not have to make them talk.

Naturalism or realism, the low mimetic as she called it, was not her mode. Not that she wasn't observant - nothing could have been sharper than her journalism with its gimlet anthropological eye - but in the end her genius did not actually lend itself to the "low mimetic" see "The Quilt Maker", an uncollected story in this mode, which is interesting but possibly her least successful. Carter was an abstract thinker with an intensely visual imagination.

What she liked about the short story form was as she wrote in the Afterword to her first collection Fireworks that "sign and sense can fuse to an extent impossible to achieve among the multiplying ambiguities of an extended narrative". She found that "though the play of surfaces never ceased to fascinate me, I was not so much exploring them as making abstractions from them".

It comes as no surprise to find that she particularly admired Baudelaire and the 19th-century Symbolist poets, and also much 20th-century French surrealist and structuralist writing. The Bloody Chamber is packed with signs, symbols and signifiers. Ironically, though, the two Frenchmen who stand as true fairy godfathers to this collection lived in earlier centuries. She praised his "consummate craftsmanship and his good-natured cynicism" in her preface, adding that "from the work of this humane, tolerant and kind-hearted Frenchman, children can learn enlightened self-interest And then there is the Marquis de Sade It is a difficult, provocative book whose Polemical Preface is subtitled "pornography in the service of women" - and a continuing bone of contention for contemporary readers.

Another passage might have been written specifically as an epigraph for The Bloody Chamber: To be the object of desire is to be defined in the passive case. To exist in the passive case is to die in the passive case - that is, to be killed. This is the moral of the fairy tale about the perfect woman. The stories in The Bloody Chamberare fired by the conviction that human nature is not immutable, that human beings are capable of change.

Some of their most brilliant passages are accounts of metamorphoses. Think of "The Courtship of Mr Lyon", which ends with Beast transformed by Beauty - "When her lips touched the meathook claws, they drew back into their pads and she saw how he had always kept his fists clenched, but now, painfully, tentatively, at last began to stretch his fingers"; or of the story with which it is twinned, "The Tiger's Bride", where this time Beauty is transformed by Beast - "And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shiny hairs.

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My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur". The heroines of these stories are struggling out of the straitjackets of history and ideology and biological essentialism. And in the movie It's very important that if we haven't, we might as well stop now. The unnamed first-person heroine of The Bloody Chamber's title story appears at first to be a Justine-like sacrificial virgin in a white dress, routinely destined for immolation; however, she changes during the narrative, and finishes by escaping her inheritance - female masochism as a modus vivendi and morendi - after a full-scale survey of its temptations.

This story is also a version of the Bluebeard fairy tale that appeared in Perrault's collection, where a new bride unlocks the forbidden room in her husband's castle to find the murdered corpses of his former wives. Perrault drew the moral that female curiosity leads to retribution, though in the France of his time, where death in childbirth was commonplace and four-fifths of the resultant widowers remarried, the bloody chamber might surely have been seen as the womb. In Carter's 20th-century version, the menace is located not in the perils of childbirth, but in the darker side of hetero-sexuality, in sadomasochism and the idea of fatal passion.

As well as all this, The Bloody Chamber is a tour de force in its recreation of late- 19th-century France. Carter claimed the stories in this collection could not have existed the way they did without the example of Isak Dinesen - "because in a way they are imitation 19th-century stories, like hers"; such stories are she described elsewhere "highly structured artefacts with beginnings, middles, and ends and a schematic coherence of imagery".

Certainly this is an accurate description of The Bloody Chamber's title story, which, like each of the highly wrought stories in Isak Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales, reads almost like a novella. Nearly all her writing is strikingly full of cultural and intertextual references, but this story is extremely so. It is an artfully constructed edifice of signs and allusions and clues. On the walls of his castle hang paintings of dead women by Moreau, Ensor and Gauguin; he listens to Wagner specifically "Liebestod" - "love-death" - in Tristan und Isolde ; he smokes Romeo y Julieta cigars "fat as a baby's arm"; his library is stocked with graphically- described sadistic pornography and his dungeon chamber with mutilated corpses and itemised instruments of torture.

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In this heavily perfumed story, the Marquis' smell of spiced leather, Cuir de Russie, is referred to more than half a dozen times, reverting at the end "to the elements of flayed hide and excrement of which it was composed". Descriptions of scented lilies, "cobraheaded, funereal", smelling of "pampered flesh", appear nine times, their fat stems like "dismembered arms". The words "immolation," "impalement", "martyr" and "sacrifice" occur, motif-like, at regular intervals but, abruptly - rather too abruptly for some critics - on the last two pages of this novella-length story the heroinevictim is rescued from decapitation by the sudden arrival of her pistol-toting maman, who puts a bullet through the Marquis' head.

Her fate is not immutable after all; she discovers that her future looks quite different now that she has escaped from the old story and is learning to sing a new song. There follow three cat tales. The first two are Beauty and the Beast transformations, as described earlier. Carter writes with tremendous relish when describing skin, fur, fabric and snowcovered landscapes.

To say she is wonderful at surfaces sounds a little disparaging, as if to say she is superficial. No; she is good at surfaces as the Gawain poet is good at surfaces. The third cat story, "Puss-in-Boots", is utterly different from its predecessors. It is "the first story that I wrote that was supposed to be really funny, out-and-out funny", said Carter.

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It is a precursor in its ribald cynical tone to her last two novels, Nights at the Circus and Wise Children, and in its turningaway from the Gothic mode towards the determinedly benign. The first-person narrator, the cat himself, is a witty raconteur and master of innuendo, proceeding mainly by rhetorical questions and exclamations. His language is a vivid mixture of Latinate elaboration and Anglo-saxon bluntness: "I went about my ablutions, tonguing my arsehole with the impeccable hygienic integrity of cats, one leg stuck in the air like a ham bone. The next three stories, at the centre of the book, fit less easily into this collection.

A Romeo and Juliet situation. Incredible chemistry between the two main characters, slick writing and quirky. The Enforcer from Untamed Hearts is one of my top ten books of all time in 40 plus years of reading. Detailed, complex classy writing with heart stopping moments that turned everything you knew from previous books on its head and gave clarity to all sorts of nuances to characters and plot. Great recommendation for this list. I could not put them down. I read both books in two days. I have put Kele Moon on my autobuy list.

Now that I have read that she plans on six books, I cannot wait for them all. The characters jump off the page and into your heart, no lie. I hope everyone takes a chance on this series. It is lovely. Dinah: Unforgiven by Elizabeth Finn!!!!!! They were friends in the past but something huge happens and 6 years later he hates her. He goes from hot to cold and she just accepts it because she feels guilty.

This book is awesome!!!

Beauty and Her Beast

I highly recommend it! Lauren: …unforgiven by Elizabeth Finn. Oh myyyy good god! Avid: Unforgiven by Elizabeth Finn. This book was steamy and spicy and gut wrenching and everything in between. Maryse: P.

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I was reluctant to allow myself to reach the final sentence knowing that when I did it would be over. I loved this story. I have this dream of writing just one thing in my life that is so hauntingly beautiful it echoes across the pages of history. If any book s should get that honour its this beautiful duet. Watch your back Romeo and Juliet, Sayer and Caro have a love that will raze all that stand in their way. Unlike you these two do not give up.

She and her star crossed lover have been reunited over the centuries but neither one realize it. Enough said you have to let it unfold for yourself. Edgy, sexy and super angsty. Highly recommended. OMG this is a great great series. You HAVE to read it. Cindy: Immediately thought of the Indebted series by Pepper Winters.

This series was intriguing and dark and unlike anything else. Grey: Indebted… gah, make sure you have batteries for your flashlight and a buddy because it gets realll dark!

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Was a really good second chance romance. Her first love became a rock star. Star crossed lovers type of book…. Read these books! They are literally the best I have ever read, I just love them to death…. Tessa: finished the Star-crossed series!