The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault by Angela Carter

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The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault by Angela Carter

I’ve always thought of fairytales as slightly macabre, so what better time to discuss Angela Carter’s The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault than on Halloween?

The collection of tales was on my reading list for my third year at uni for our Storytelling unit. It’s one of the few books I didn’t read on my course, a) because I thought I knew everything about Angela Carter after dissecting The Bloody Chamber for a year at college and b) it’s only 72 pages long so I thought I could get away with not reading it.

008Bluebeard’s moral

The collection of short stories is exactly what it says, a retelling of fairy tales. Charles Perrault was a Frenchman in the 17th century and wrote down these tales which had been passed down orally for centuries. Perrault was the son of a barrister. He took a degree in law but soon tired of the profession and became a secretary to statesman, Jean Baptist Colbert.

Carter simply ‘retells’ the fairytales and offers what the moral of each tale is at the end. Whether this is an exact retelling or Carter has translated the novels and put her own spin on it we don’t know, as the whole point of the collection being on my reading list was to discuss whether stories can ever be an accurate retelling or translation. We came to the conclusion probably not.

If anything this is proof that the general morals and the essence of fairytales will continue to live on.

009Cinderella’s moral

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Sleeping Beauty’s moral

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Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore

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Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore

I had heard people throw around Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore as revolutionary, shocking and ahead of its time. Newspapers, lecturers and social commentators have been praising the book for years so I thought I would see what all the fuss was about.

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Chocolates for Breakfast is essentially a coming of age tale. Fifteen year old Courtney is a disillusioned teen full of angst and sexual desires as she struggles with her transformation from a girl into a woman. She is a pupil at a boarding school in New York with her best friend Janet, but her mother suddenly removes her from the comfort of the school and whisks Courtney off to live with her in Hollywood.

As a struggling actress, Courtney’s mother, introduces her daughter to sin, temptations and a life of excess. Drinking and smoking first thing in the morning is not uncommon for the young Courtney as her mother attends audition after audition. Surrounded by her mother’s friends she feels the pressure even more to act as an adult and she sees the way to do this by having sexual encounters. She has an affair with Barry, an older, washed up, gay actor.

Courtney is then transported back to New York as her mother lands work in the city. Courtney makes the most of it and mixes with New York’s finest bright young things. A complete flirt, Courtney realises she is too intelligent and witty for the boys she meets until she meets her match. Anthony is a gorgeous lawyer who she has a physical relationship with in the hope that she will find happiness and security. However she dates other men including the sophisticated Charles.

Janet on the other hand is the classic ‘teen gone wild’. Promiscuous and staying out all night, her life is a car crash waiting to happen. And sadly that car crash happens at the end of the novel when her relationship with her parents comes to a head and she commits suicide. The act of losing her best friend causes Courtney to become a woman and to also realise what is best for her – a relationship with Charles.

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Over the course of the book the reader can see Courtney become more adult through her dialogue and her actions. At the end Courtney can see that she wants love, not lust. She realises that happiness and safety does not come from sex.

The figure of her mother or perhaps lack of makes Courtney believe she can find her comfort and happiness in men. Again, at the end her mother matures and acts like a parental figure which helps Courtney to make grown-up decisions.

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Chocolates for Breakfast is littered with wonderful one liners and philosophical comments. There’s pearls of wisdom on every page that you want to write down and keep and the numerous underlying meanings in the text is a lecturer’s dream. Pamela Moore was only eighteen when this novel was published in 1956 and she writes with wisdom beyond her years. Every woman will find something they can relate to in this novel.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

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David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Ol’ David Copperfield has been sitting on the top of my wardrobe for over four years. As the nights draw in and the smell of autumn is in the air I resort to reading the ‘classics’. Perhaps because they are comforting or perhaps because there is nothing better of a winter’s evening than snuggling down and reading a good book.

The first time I heard of David Copperfield I was a mere 8 year old and I remember half -heartedly watching the BBC adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe while playing hairdressers with my model styling head one Christmas.

Fast forward 16 years and I have finally read the book. I bought the book from a selection we had at my previous work and the print is quite frankly the smallest I have seen. I nearly gave up at the first hurdle as my eyes were hurting however I persevered!

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Written in first person David Copperfield charts the life of the title character. When David is a young boy his mother remarries the nasty Mr Murdstone. As a consequence David is sent away to boarding school and his mother is then controlled by Mr Murdstone and his sister. When his mother dies David is then sent away to work for Mr Murdstone’s company. Unhappy and mourning his mother, he then runs away to the only family he knows, his Aunt. So he walks all the way to Dover to find her. The story then progresses to David marrying Dora (I have never read such gushing declarations of love for someone, I felt sick), his friend Em’ly running away, his pal Ham being killed, Dora dying and David travelling the world only to come back and marry Agnes.

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The majority of characters are present throughout the novel such as his beloved Pegotty and Mr Micawber and the awful yet intriguing Uriah Heep. There is less sorrow and hardship than the rest of his novels and I love how he would incounter everyone he knew even if he was in the middle of nowhere – how convenient! After his childhood I felt that nothing hugely shocking happened however on the whole I did thoroughly enjoy it. And although over 700 pages long it’s quite an easy read!