Yep, I definitely enjoy audiobooks more if I’ve read the book before. In this case I even enjoyed it so much, that I very predictably drifted off to sleep while listening to it. Which is fine at night, but not a particularly good idea during home office. I’ll blame it on Emilia Fox’s dulcet voice.
As for the book itself: it’s a collection of retellings of fairy tales and myths, all with a slightly more feminist twist and an adult audience in mind.* The stories featured for example are: Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast and the eponymous Bloody Chamber is based on Bluebeard. The one I like best, in print and recording, is the retelling of The Erlking. It really shows off the author’s strengths, the luscious language, the beautiful and fantastical imagery, the creeping dread, the horror influence, and yeah, also the exploration of female desire. In The Erlking it works for me.
There is a lot of BDSM imagery in this book, not in a way that appeals to my proclivities and I frankly don’t know enough about the background of the book to really comment on the feminist value. (I came across the book by chance and got it on audible because it was 2 for 1 and had Richard Armitage listed as a narrator.) I know about the “feminist lit” categorisation of the book via cultural osmosis, but in half of the stories the erotic aspect comes into play when the female protagonist is at the complete mercy of a lurking, male evil and yeah, nah, does not work here. I remember reading Bluebeard, loving the more immersed perspective, but then I pretty much shouted at the pages “get a knife from the kitchen and STAB THE FUCKER!”. Same thing happened during the audiobook.
This is starting to sound more negative than my opinion on this truly is. It’s a great read, the language is absolutely gorgeous, sometimes bordering on turgid, but never crossing the line, I really enjoyed the darkness, it’s so much better than what you find in a lot of horror books and the play on the familiar stories works really really well.
The audiobook quality is mostly good too. Richard Armitage only narrates a few stories and he honestly isn’t that great, but Emilia Fox makes up for it. Loved the voices she put on and again, DULCET, aka perfect for creepily erotic stories.
*Yes, I know that fairy tales were told to all ages.