Bluebeard's Castle: A Novel (Verso Fiction)
Bluebeard gets a feminist Gothic makeover in this subversive take on the famous French fairy tale — from the acclaimed director of The Love Witch, and for fans of Jane Eyre
When the successful British mystery writer Judith Moore meets Gavin, a handsome and charming baron, at a birthday party on the Cornish coast, his love transforms her from a bitter, lonely young woman into a romance heroine overnight. After a whirlwind honeymoon in Paris, he whisks her away to a secluded Gothic castle. But soon she finds herself trapped in a nightmare, as her husband’s mysterious nature and his alternation between charm and violence become increasingly frightening.
As Judith battles both internal and external demons, including sexual ambivalence, psychological self-torture, gaslighting, family neglect, alcoholism, and domestic abuse, she becomes increasingly addicted to her wild beast of a husband. Why do women stay in abusive relationships? The answer can be found in the tortured mind of the protagonist, whose richly layered fantasy life parallels that of the female Gothic romance reader. Filled with dark humor and evocative imagery, Bluebeard’s Castle is a subversive take on modern romance and Gothic erotica.
Praise for Bluebeard's Castle: A Novel (Verso Fiction)
"Bluebeard's Castle [is] … a stylised retelling of the old fable that mixes self-reference and gaudy excess. Its heroine, Judith, a gothic-romance novelist, shacks up in a crumbling castle with a brooding husband; the sex, death and pricy cognac are of a wildly enjoyable piece."
—Cal Revely-Calder, Best Fiction Books of the Year, Telegraph
"Both a fantasy and a nightmare ... [Biller] casts a chilling light on the kinds of real-world fairy tales we are all still so often encouraged to believe."
—Elizabeth Dearnley, Times Literary Supplement
"A story which is as gripping as it is troubling - and as relevant now as it has ever been."
—Barry Didcock, Herald
"Grippingly intense and emotionally resonant, Bluebeard's Castle plants the reader firmly in the mind of a woman being masterfully manipulated, stripping bare any clichés and misconceptions about domestic violence. The result is a brutally honest glimpse into the tragedy of intimate partner violence that millions of women around the world have experienced."
—Sirena He, Esquire
"To its final page, Bluebeard's Castle is as much an excavation of the insidious tactics of abusers as it is the culture that belittles and maligns victims, that teaches them to 'fix' their abusers or suffer the consequences."
—Kylie Cheung, Jezebel
"A perfect literary debut for a one-of-a-kind filmmaker. And that cover!"
—Sophia Stewart, Most Anticipated Books of 2023, The Millions
"A provocative work that adds layers of meaning as one becomes addicted to this page-turner of a book, Bluebeard’s Castle is a bit of Alfred Hitchcock mixed with André Breton’s Nadja."
—Tosh Berman, author of Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World
"Written by the filmmaker of 2016's The Love Witch, this debut novel has a similar romantic haze and a retro hyper-aesthetic swirl…stylish, scary, and peak modern Gothic."
—Maggie Lange, Most Anticipated Books, Bustle
"Anna Biller's sly feminist dissection of gothic tropes is as lush and layered as her cinema...Biller skillfully portrays the gaslighting and abuse that reduce her heroine to making excuses for her boorish husband."
—Molly Odintz, Most Anticipated Books, CrimeReads
"Though the story is set in the present day, Biller paints a beautifully creepy atmosphere full of billowy dresses, darkened woods, burning candles, and castle corridors full of ghosts and secrets. The novel's timeless quality helps drive home the unending nature of male violence against women."
"Apparently, there’s nothing Biller can’t do, because she’s bringing her gothic-meets-midcentury-camp aesthetic to the page with Bluebeard’s Castle, a retelling of the famous fairy tale that also seems to be in conversation with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca."
—BookPage (“Most anticipated mystery and suspense”)
"Bluebeard's Castle is a truly great novel...it's a delightful page-turner; multilayered and multi-dimensional. While a book of this nature is a risk in any era, it's safe to say that Anna Biller can now add novelist to her sensational register of artistic achievements."
—We Are Cult
"Equally steeped in the traditions of the Gothic genre and the women's picture, Bluebeard's Castle follows a romance novelist, Judith, as she's dragged into a whirlwind marriage with the dangerously charming Gavin. Its horror stems not just from the crumbling and potentially haunted castle, but from the terror of being trapped with a man who is a relative stranger to her."
—Alexandra Coburn, Screen Slate
"This gothic thriller cheekily transports readers to a bygone era by drawing heavily upon classic horror movies and literature, utilizing highly stylized language, tropes, and dated gender roles while generating conversation regarding contemporary issues of consent, agency, domestic abuse, and gaslighting. The author contextualizes the self-sabotage that perpetuates toxic relationships, and fans of the author's film The Love Witch (2016) will enjoy this gothic novel."
"Biller flexes her mastery of pastiche, vividly sumptuous detail, and the subversion of classic female archetypes. In this, her first novel, a tale that begins in the style of gothic romance turns legitimately terrifying, rooted in the all too real fear of sociopathic male violence."
—Rufus Hickok, BUST
"[Biller has] given the classic folk tale a feminist makeover. Call it an erotic Jane Eyre - one that both revels in and subverts the genre tropes to explore, among other things, why women like her heroine, Judith, stay in bad relationships with brooding men."
"Bluebeard's Castle is clever, disquieting, and as rich artistically as it is disciplined-in other words, everything you would expect from Anna Biller. Highly recommended!"
—Brian W. Walter, professor, author, and editor of The Guestroom Novelist
"Anna Biller's writing is full and luminous, mirroring the classic fiction of Mary Shelley and Charlotte Brontë--but with a modern bite that keeps readers going back for more."
—Dominic Charles Howarth, Shelf Awareness
"[Biller] transforms the gothic narrative and its spaces into a self-reflexive game; her novel offers a humorous and horrific twist on a genre that here grotesquely folds back on itself to reveal and conceal where true intent lies and the actual bodies are buried"
—Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou, Worms Magazine
"Bluebeard's Castle is a sexy but subversive romance novel steeped in Gothic imagery."
—The Arts Fuse
"A gorgeous, distinctly female gaze-but one unafraid to depict the mainstays of women's suffering, from objectification to assault."
—Chelsea Davis, Electric Literature