Books

Book Review – The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter

the passion of new eve cover

I recently wrote an essay on this book for university (grade still pending) so I’m trying not to repeat anything that I wrote in the essay in this review because self-plagiarism is a thing and I don’t want to get called into the office to discuss it.

The Passion of New Eve is without doubt the strangest book I have ever read. I was not a fan of Angela Carter before I read this book and I’m still not a fan of Carter after reading The Passion of New Eve. My previous experiences with Angela Carter include her retelling of the Bluebeard fairy-tale The Bloody Chamber and some of the short stories in her collection Black Venus. I have studied Carter in great detail and she is a very interesting author to say the least. Although I don’t necessarily enjoy her work I would recommend reading The Bloody Chamber, especially alongside the original fairy-tale.

The Passion of New Eve is obviously political and very problematic when considering gender identity and identity politics. I feel that Carter’s radical second-wave feminist views are the main focus of this novel and that is not a good thing. I’m a third wave feminist myself and Carter’s violent radical views scare me if I’m being honest. In The Passion of New Eve Carter creates a terrifying matriarchal system to combat the patriarchal system that we live in today and she makes gender identity into a war of ‘men versus women’ in the worst possible way.

The main character, Evelyn, is a white, English, middle-aged man who is obsessed with the actress Tristessa de St Ange and often engages in violent sadomasochistic sex with other women while thinking about Tristessa. His relationship with a young black woman called Leliah is based on sex and his treatment of Leilah is abusive. Evelyn is later transformed into Eve but the character doesn’t become any more likable. In fact, I think I hated Eve more than Evelyn is some ways.

The story is a first person narrative which makes it difficult to connect with any of the other characters, including Tristessa who we only see for a short amount of time in the novel. However, even though it is a first person narrative and we are reading the novel through Evelyn’s voice it is still difficult to connect with Evelyn as he is an awful character and an unreliable narrator.

There’s not much I can say about this book without spoiling it and I think that if I tried to explain it I would confuse so many people. The only way to understand this book is to read it and while I may have hated the book I did find it incredibly interesting. There’s a lot of graphic violence in this novel, towards both men and women, so be warned if you’re squeamish.

I think it’s safe to say that I did not enjoy this book but I can appreciate it’s literary value as a dark satire. Carter’s writing style and ability to make me hate all of her characters makes this an interesting book even though I didn’t enjoy it. I always find books interesting when I hate every character (Wuthering Heights is another book that falls into this category).

If anyone else has read The Passion of New Eve or any Carter’s other works please let me know what you thought of the novel/her work because I’ve only really encountered negative reactions similar to my own.

3/5
(I almost gave it a 2 but I thought it would be unfair because I really did find it interesting even though I hated it.)

Started: 27th February 2015
Completed 27th February 2015

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