Shadow Dance – Angela Carter

Reading anything by Angela Carter is like being seduced into an inescapable and highly sensual love affair. Her words reach inside to the most intimate parts of you; touching you, moving you so that you are hers forever.Shadow Dance is one of the most disturbing and enchanting things I have ever read. It is utterly captivating and horrifying and not simply because of what happens in the story. Each of the characters is, in one way or another, recognisable; we each of us know a vain, ill-fated Ghislaine or a weak, indecisive Morris almost wilfully pinned down by his own frustrated creativity. But what makes Angela’s writing so resonant is that we can identify elements of these characters very strongly, very clearly within ourselves. She plays on our own secret insecurities, and, though she’s never met us, she seems to know us better than we know ourselves.And there are parts of us all who long for a destructively sweet-tongued Honeybuzzard to dance us away from ourselves, our responsibilities. To play the bad guy for us and vindicate us in our passivity. Shadow Dance acts as a microscope on these semi-realised feelings. We see them, and ourselves, more profoundly within it; we can see what happens when the destructive sides of ourselves can allow to happen. How far they can go, if we let them. We can empathise with Morris pretending to himself that his weakness is his strength, becoming a pseudo-hero in his own eyes. We find ourselves fascinated by Honeybuzzard’s compulsion to take things to their extremes, swept along with his charisma. Perhaps we secretly wish we could feel so little for other people as he does, so long as the game goes on. What should revolt, instead captivates.

The book is wonderful. It is gripping, absorbing and chilling and I’ll see it play out behind my eyes when I try to sleep for days. Her way of creating a dichotomy between intensely believable realism and beautifully crafted fantasy lets you identify totally with the narrative, whilst acting as complete escapism, making for an experience rather than a novel.