The Lady of the House of Love by Angela Carter (1979)
Tuesday’s Tale for Halloween October 22, 2019
How about a haunting fairy tale for Halloween? Come meet the Countess. Let’s go Gothic in a decaying castle with “shadows that have no source in anything visible.” Who lives in the castle? A beautiful somnambulist who helplessly perpetuates her ancestral crimes. Think Sleeping Beauty but as a vampiress who lives in a tower in Transylvania. A bridal gown, blood red roses, Tarot cards, forbidden pleasures, claw-tipped hands, and fatal embraces—”her claws and teeth have been sharpened on centuries of corpses.”
The story is written with such beauty and horror, it’s perfect for Halloween. I won’t spend time on the plot (a young officer in the British army comes to her castle, lured by the Countess’s mute old maid), because the following tasty quotations from the text are just too delicious. What a master of language and style Angela Carter is! You will be transported.
“Too many roses bloomed on enormous thickets that lined the path, thickets bristling with thorns, and the flowers themselves were almost too luxuriant, their huge congregations of plush petals somehow obscene in their excess, their whorled, tightly budded cores outrageous in their implications. The mansion emerged grudgingly out of this jungle.”
“She offered him a sugar biscuit from a Limoges plate; her fingernails struck carillons from the antique china. Her voice, issuing from those red lips like the obese roses in her garden, lips that do not move–her voice is curiously disembodied; she is like a doll, he thought, a ventriloquist’s doll, or, more, like a great, ingenious piece of clockwork.”
“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening. She has the mysterious solitude of ambiguous states; she hovers in a no-man’s land between life and death, sleeping and waking …”
Are you anxious for more pleasures of the senses? This story is 5 stars. I loved it.
Read the short story here at Short Story Project:
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Author Angela Carter was named one of the “50 greatest British writers since 1945” by the London Times. A prolific writer of fiction, Carter is best remembered for her collection of short fiction The Bloody Chamber, in which this story was published. Angela died in 1992.
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