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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

"Heroes and Villains" by Angela Carter.

This was my introduction to Carter's work. She writes fantasy novels. This is set after a 'war' (presumably a nuclear holocaust). (June 2015: I now discover that I have already read her Wise Children which is rather different!)

 Marianne lives in a 'white tower' with her father who is one of the Professor's of an agricultural community closely guarded by soldiers. From time to time they are raided by the Barbarians: as a child she watches from her window as her brother is killed. But she finds the safe community stifling and she runs into the surrounding forest with a beautiful Barbarian boy. She joins his tribe which is dominated by a renegade professor turned shaman.

Carter's style mirrors the mythic themes. Moments of lush, gorgeous description is interrupted by arid, sterile dialogue which in turn gives way to sensuous eroticism reflecting the professorial enclosed villages in the barbarian countryside, perhaps echoing a view of stilted civilization and fertile nature. Marianne tries to understand the new world in which she finds herself in philosophical and sociological terms but in the end she is controlled by passion. She, her barbarian boyfriend and the mad guru indulge in a weird power play in which each tries to outwit and kill the other. Throughout, the reader is challenged when characters respond strangely. Thus conversations are rarely dialogues but rather each character states their position (or doesn't because everyone seems to speak in riddles). And the responses of characters to rape, death and betrayal seem intensely unhuman. Finally Jewel  the Barbarian, butcher, warrior, gravedigger and leader, tattooed with temptation, is so educated for a barbarian, sometimes so mundane, but othertimes so mysterious and so contradictory.

I wondered if he was Mick Jagger as seen by Marianne (Faithful).

Such a strange book; sometimes so unfullfilling and sometimes so profound. I pledge to read the entire Carter corpus on the strength of this first taste. (June 2015: Now I have also read The Bloody Chamber which is a brilliant collection of short stories based around fairy tales and The infernal desire machines of Doctor Hoffman which is a picaresque journey through a fantastic landscape with lots of sex.)

Weird and upsetting at every level. August 2012; 164 pages


  1. "sometimes so unfulfilling" - I thought so to, like a glistening apple filled with worms.

    1. I'd say it was more like one of those apples you find in some supermarkets, which look perfect in every way with just the right amount of green and blushing red, so that your mouth tingles with anticipation until you bite into them and they taste of so much less than they promise.