Angela Carter’s Love is the third full-length book by her that I’ve read. I found it to be disturbing. Carter’s prose is as imaginative and wonderful as in her other writing, but here it cloaks a story about love, sex, violence, and madness that was hard to swallow.
At the beginning of the book, we meet Annabel. She is walking home through a park but gets filled with terror when she sees the moon and the sun in the sky at the same time. She hides under some bushes and stays there, unable to move, until her brother-in-law Buzz finds her and brings her home. Annabel’s husband Lee is waiting there for her. Lee is a young school teacher with a brilliant smile and an eye condition that makes him cry easily. While these characters are all a bit strange, they are not all that unusual, considering that Angela Carter created them. It is obvious that Annabel is suffering from mental illness, but it seems that her husband is taking care of her.
But then Carter starts to drop hints that all is not as it seems. The reader starts to wonder just how ill Annabel is. She is unable to relate to the world around her in any way whatsoever. Lee is having affairs to escape his wife who can’t see him as a human being. Buzz, who at times thinks his unknown father might have been a Native American, likes to take pictures of Lee and Annabel—mostly at inappropriate moments. At first, it looks like he’s developing an unhealthy obsession with his brother and sister-in-law, but then it becomes clear that the brothers might have already had an unhealthy relationship with each other long before Annabel entered their lives.
The self-destructive behavior and power struggle of the three main characters gets worse throughout the book. I have to admit that I felt uncomfortable reading it.
“[Lee] and Annabel sometimes played chess for she liked to handle the pieces of a red and white Chinese ivory set that Buzz had somehow acquired for her; she would fall into a reverie, her eyes fixed vacantly on the board caressing the knight or castle in her hand while Lee gnawed his fingernails and waited for some startling, irrational move with would throw his mathematical attack into disarray.
‘She plays chess from the passions and I play it from logic and she usually wins. Once, I took her queen and she hit me.’
Though, he recalled, not sufficiently brutally to require that he tie her wrists together with his belt, force her to kneel and beat her until she toppled over sideways. She raised a strangely joyous face to him; the pallor of her skin and the almost miraculous lustre of her eyes startled and even awed him. He was breathless with weeping, a despicable object.”
Carter’s books usually make me think, especially because she so often plays with gender roles and turns them on their head. But with this book, I didn’t see a point. Other than Carter’s amazing language, there was not much to love in this book.
I’ve read this book as part of Angela Carter Week, hosted by Caroline and Delia. If any participant, or really anyone else, has read Love, I would love to hear about your reading experience. Did I miss something in this book?