Member Reviews

Anna Biller is as visionary as they come. I appreciate her eclectic taste, now in novel format. Blending the old with the new, I found this pulpy story propulsive and exciting. It was great!

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Pitched with all the greatest comp titles, I just couldn't get into this one long enough to get to the good part, I'm afraid. So much style with so little substance. I would try getting through it again with an audiobook, but DNF.

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Bluebeard's Castle by Anna Bille first of all has the most AMAZING cover!!! THis was truly a treat - a horror story reimagined! I was truly thankful to have gotten to read this before most people! I would like to purchase this one for my physical library!

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I think this would have worked better as a movie, for a number of reasons. A lot of the book is telling, not showing- descriptions more than plot. I'm not sure if this is meant to be satire, and I don't think it really works as satire, maybe campy more than anything, which is another element I think would have translated better on screen. The book mainly follows romance author Judith's perspective as she falls very suddenly in love with her own personal Bluebeard, but does shift perspectives a couple of times in ways that don't make sense. A quick read with a gorgeous cover, this didn't really live up to what I had hoped it would be and the writing and plot felt amateurish.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book! This book was an interesting gothic retelling of a classic horror story. The horror story was something I was familiar with, and the implications of the story were carried over well in Biller's novel. The crux of the storyline seemed a little weak, as if the narrative relied on the tropes to carry it instead of utilizing the tropes as literary devices in a compelling story.

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This is one of the best covers of 2023 and I loved the conceit of the novel--a truly modern Gothic novel filled with references to the classics. I think the writing is intentionally kitschy, but that proved to be a barrier to my enjoyment, especially given the length of the book.

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A gothic romance fairy tale retelling perfect for fans of Anna Biller's cinematic masterpiece The Love Witch. Perfect for literary fiction and mystery readers looking to add a bit more thrill and a bit more horror into their next read.

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I was drawn in by the cover, which evokes the old gothic romances I loved as a teenager. Not exactly what I was expecting, but an interesting read.

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Gorgeously gothic, gorgeously dark, deserves way more attention than it got. Thanks for the arc, it was fantastic

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Unfortunately I will not be submitting a review for this title as my opinions and the authors do not align.

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I have enjoyed Biller's films in the past, but I'm just not sure if she translates well to send ups of novel forms in the same way. I also think Biller has not grown and perhaps even regressed in her feminism. This book relies on a really essentialist view of gender that I see in perceptions of old gothics more than I actually see in old gothics.

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I was initially intrigued by the conceit of a Gothic satire but found this far too tongue-in-cheek and ultimately the satire fell flat. This is a rewriting of the Gothic trope of a young woman becoming trapped in a relationship with a dangerous man, when author June meets the baron Gavin. Examining ideas of gaslighting, toxic relationships and how these Gothic tropes can map onto modern society. However I felt that the tone was too satirical and ultimately made these serious themes fall flat.

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This review was made possible via an ARC through NetGalley.

Bluebeard's Castle is a story of abuse not only in a romantic relationship, but also in familial ones. Judith's relationship with her mother hit me quite hard in a lot of ways and her relationship with her sister reminded me of friends in similar situations. The book makes it clear that the cycle of abuse is just that; a cycle. People go back for a variety of reasons, but self-doubt and self-worth are one of the big ones as is the ramifications of gaslighting and never feeling loved as a child.

It was my first Gothic in a while and I would say it does accurately reflect the genre because there are some very key tenets that the novel plays open. Judith herself being a Gothic author and, therefore, genre aware and romanticizing herself and her relationship can be hit and miss. I did have to take breaks from reading it due to how triggering the content could be for me, personally, so I recommend other readers exercise self-care and take breaks if need be.

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After such gems as "To me, being murdered is the most frightening thing that can happen to anyone" and "'I'm a man,' he said, in the manliest tone she had ever heard", I'm tapping out at about 10%. Shocking, I know, but the prose just isn't doing it for me - and that's without making any mention of the love interest's orbs, described in turns so far as dark, burning, and dreamy.

I've given Bluebeard's Castle a generous 2 star rating to account for the fact that I didn't make it very far (and refrained from a star rating entirely on Goodreads for the same reason), and I'd still like to give my thanks to NetGalley and Verso Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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As a devotee of her movies VIVA and THE LOVED WITCH, thrilled to include Biller's debut novel in the October edition of Novel Encounters, my column highlighting the month’s most anticipated fiction for the Books section of Zoomer, Canada’s national culture magazine. (see column and mini-review at link)

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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an e-arc of this book. <i>Bluebeard's Castle</i> releases October 10, 2023.

<i>Bluebeard's Castle</i> tells the story of young Judith, a writer of gothic romances, who finds herself married to someone who may or may not mirror the "heroes" of her novels.

I thought I was going to love this book, so the fact that I really didn't like it is a little devastating to me. We all missed out on the film version of this story, which is sad.

This book is exhausting to read in a painful way. It's way too long because most of the book is Judith's interior thoughts, which are repetitive and claustrophobic in the way that she circles around the same two ideas over and over and over again. This isn't to say that this claustrophobic interior moments can't be effective---they just aren't in this novel. It's missing the tension and the dread from the novels it's inspired by. It's really missing the subtlety of classic gothic romances, as well. And it's over the top in a way that isn't effectively campy or pulpy, too. It's...kind of a mess.

The themes the novel is looking at are surface level at best. Very 'girl boss' feminism. It follows the strictest of gender binaries in a way that was also exhausting for me to read because it wasn't really doing anything with it. I get it. Judith likes dresses. You really don't have to tell me fifty times.

This book just really needed more editing.

And the ending?! Oy. What a preachy, nonsensical mess.

The one thing I liked were some of the descriptions and there were some moments that used the genre well. Those moments were just few and far between.

I honestly can't say I would recommend this. Just read a classic gothic romance instead.

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Thank you, publisher and NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this work. I found the content of this work too pulpy for me. I do appreciate the tie-in to "Bluebeard's Wife," but I think Angela Carter retold the narrative best.

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I feel like I just read a draft of a novel. Or like I just spent five hours listening to somebody tell me in painstaking detail about a movie that I haven't seen. And maybe I initially wanted to see the movie, but now I absolutely don't because, for the love of gawd, can this please just be over now? This is a shame because I really had been excited to read a feminist retelling of the Bluebeard tale type. Sadly, Bluebeard's Castle isn't that. It isn't that at all.

Here's a quick run-down of my major grievances:

1. The character growth is almost imperceptible. Since they're all caricatures to begin with, this might be excusable if the writing were more engaging, the plot better developed, and the dialogue more frequent and less stilted. Alas, alas, alas.

2. Far too much time was spent describing the scenery and costuming rather than the interactions between characters. No doubt this is part of why it felt like somebody was telling me about a movie they'd watched rather than actually telling me a story. Funny thing about reading a book—I actually wanted a story.

3. Straight-up telling the reader to make a connection between what they're reading and a classic gothic novel—which the author does repeatedly—is not the same thing as making a literary allusion. It shows a lack of trust in your audience and is incredibly condescending. Ditto for sermonizing at the end of the book.

So, I clearly didn't like this book. It didn't read as 'camp' for me, nor did it read as feminist, or subversive, or erotic. Maybe if it had been one of those things I could have enjoyed it. Honestly, the only reason I read it through to the end was to determine whether to give it one star or two. It earned two only because the writing, character growth, and plot development weren't good enough to make any of my thematic complaints (which I didn't even get into here....you're welcome) truly objectionable.

If you're looking for good gothic horror, keep looking.

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This was a delightful unexpected novel that blends erotic romance into a gothic horror. The story appeared to be a classic piece of dark romantic fiction, ignoring consent, until it evolved a more serious narrative of gaslighting and domestic abuse.

I would recommend this one to readers looking for a feminist smart story.

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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"Charles Perrault's Bluebeard gets a feminist Gothic makeover in this subversive take on the famous French fairy tale - from the filmmaker behind the cult film, The Love Witch, and for fans of Jane Eyre.

Judith is a successful novelist, but she's a little sensitive. She's from a good family, even if that family favors her more beautiful sister. She loves a drink (or 3) but isn't sure if she loves the handsome doctor who is courting her. She yearns for a romance to yield to but remains a virgin. Judith receives visions from the saints.

Then Judith meets Gavin, a handsome and charming baron, at a wedding on the Cornish coast. His love transforms her from a plain, lonely girl into a beautiful, glamorous woman overnight.

After a whirlwind honeymoon in Paris, he whisks her away to a Gothic castle in the countryside. But soon her perfect marriage begins to fall apart and she finds herself trapped in a nightmare, as her husband's mysterious nature, and his alternation of charm and violence, become more and more confusing and frightening. And then there are those whispers amongst the staff, unsettling rumors from London, and strange rattlings from the crypt...

From the visionary filmmaker of The Love Witch, this is a modern Gothic feminist take on the classic folktale Bluebeard."

This cover wins this Halloween season. There really is no other competition, I mean, look at it?

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