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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty, Subversive Study of Gender...
In this, one of Carter's boldest and most subversive novels, the protagonist undergoes an excrutiating exercise in de-masculinization. As a female, he realizes that women truly are "made" into nurturers, into mothers, into objects of sexual desire. Carter's prose is richly--chillingly--beautiful, as she describes one man's confusing transformation from being...
Published on January 30, 2000

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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An odd read at best.
My only previous exposure to Carter's work has been through her short-story collection, "The Bloody Chamber". I'd highly recommend that over this; while TBC included some stories that were hard to grasp, it also contained many witty, dark, brilliant stories that blew the classic versions out of the water.

"The Passion of New Eve" is interesting, but all I could...
Published on May 28, 2006 by Kai


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty, Subversive Study of Gender..., January 30, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
In this, one of Carter's boldest and most subversive novels, the protagonist undergoes an excrutiating exercise in de-masculinization. As a female, he realizes that women truly are "made" into nurturers, into mothers, into objects of sexual desire. Carter's prose is richly--chillingly--beautiful, as she describes one man's confusing transformation from being the "hunter" into the "hunted." Quite possibly Angela Carter's finest work--as well as one of the most provocative studies of gender construction in the Western world.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Passion of New Forms, February 22, 2010
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This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Everyone knows what the word "passion" means in ordinary usage; it's a strong feeling, often of sexual desire, and generally considered to be the opposite of reason. It means something quite different in religious terms, though. The word comes from a Latin root that means "suffering" and originally referred to the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Later, it came to mean the suffering that would lead a person to sainthood, the sensation of leaving one's body and joining with God for a time. You can see the resemblance to eroticism there. Angela Carter certainly did; the protagonist of "The Passion of New Eve" goes through both suffering and ecstasy at various junctures.

And yes, that means a certain amount of bloody sexual violence, although it stops well short of pornography. This novel isn't about sex and violence anyway; it's mostly about sin, forgiveness, self-image, and the possibility of happiness once you've learned acceptance. All for under 200 pages.

You might call "Passion" a work of science fiction, since it takes place in some not-too-distant future, but then you might as well call it a Western because most of it takes place in the southwestern desert of the United States. A young professor named Evelyn (which is a man's first name in England when pronounced EVE-linn) comes to New York for a college job, only to find that black revolutionaries are about to burn the college to the ground. These same revolutionaries then build a wall around Harlem while feminist revolutionaries take random potshots at miscellaneous men. Good times.

Evelyn begins an affair with an underage black exotic dancer, whom he abandons when she gets pregnant. Hoping in the vaguest way for some kind of renewal, he flees New York for the aforementioned desert and gets captured by a group of those feminist revolutionaries. These women live underground and worship a former plastic surgeon who has, by her art, transformed herself into a grotesque goddess-form. She takes a sperm sample from Evelyn and then surgically transforms him into a fully-functioning woman (uterus and all) named Eve. She intends to impregnate Eve with Evelyn's seed and thus transform the mythological underpinnings of Western civilization as it collapses under its own weight, whatever that means. We're about halfway through the book. Stay tuned.

All of this is revealed on the book jacket, so I have no qualms about revealing it here. I assure you, the rest of this little adventure is even more bizarre. Someone asked me a little while ago if "The Passion of New Eve" is surrealistic - that's putting it mildly. Some people enjoy creative work that goes off the deep end like this and others prefer something that deals with more recognizable events. You'll have to judge for yourself if this novel is for you.

If it helps, you might consider the fact that "Passion" has more on its mind than just getting as weird as possible. Let's put it this way; for a long time, thinkers about gender have said that bringing men and women together in understanding is difficult, since the sexes' world views and experiences are so different as to be nearly incomprehensible, one to the other. To solve this problem, Angela Carter conceives of a man who is literally turned into a woman. Well and good. Now, given that a woman's world view and experiences are so alien to a man, what experiences will this former man have? The author will not choose them at random, especially with a civil war going on in this alternate United States. And indeed, Ms. Carter chose the new Eve's experiences with a good deal of consideration, and took care to set them up right from the start of her book so as to make the impact on the character as powerful as possible.

"The Passion of New Eve", being a novel rather than a poem, does not deal in abstractions by any means. On the contrary, as I implied just now, the plot is impressively structured and logical, even though the events within it resemble nothing you've ever seen before. (This is another reason to welcome "Passion" into the science fiction pantheon - a lot of great sf does exactly the same thing - but that's a conversation for another day.) So, not abstract, but it does have at least one thing in common with great abstractionists like Jackson Pollock in painting and Ornette Coleman in jazz. Both of them disregarded the traditional formats of their art, like shape and color or key and rhythm, but did not disregard the idea of form itself or pursue chaos for its own sake. Instead, they came up with new forms and figured out the rules as they went along. That's more or less what Ms. Carter did here with traditional story form.

Having said that, it's time to get into the question of art's function. It certainly takes a kind of genius to re-invent a whole form of expression, but if the work that comes out of it leaves you cold, is it any good? Probably not.

Fortunately, if you leave yourself open to it, you can be profoundly moved by abstract painting or free jazz, and the same is true of Angela Carter and "The Passion of New Eve". Good thing, too - if you read this novel, however short, and said "So what?" at the end, it would be a waste of Ms. Carter's time and yours. Well, however goofy and/or painful this novel can be, and although there's no spectacular triumph for Evelyn/Eve at the end, believe me - this is not a waste of time.

Let's put it this way; if a selfish fool suffers terrible pain and woe, and afterwards has the chance to make a kind and charitable gesture, you might feel sad for that person, but you wouldn't call it a waste, would you?

Benshlomo says, Classic things need new shapes once in a while.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre But Brilliant!, July 27, 2001
This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is the most outrageous Angela Carter novel I've read. Just when you begin to settle into one bizarre plot, Carter turns everything upside down and takes the story down a completely different avenue. She still manages, however, to bring all of her seemingly disparate plot elements together at the novel's satisfying close.
Evelyn's transformation from loathesome creep into a protagonist the reader actually cares about is a riotous roller-coaster ride, punctuated by Carter's beautiful prose and embellished by her perverse sense of humor. As always with Angela Carter, a satisfying, thought-provoking read!
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An odd read at best., May 28, 2006
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This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
My only previous exposure to Carter's work has been through her short-story collection, "The Bloody Chamber". I'd highly recommend that over this; while TBC included some stories that were hard to grasp, it also contained many witty, dark, brilliant stories that blew the classic versions out of the water.

"The Passion of New Eve" is interesting, but all I could conclude at the end was that Carter was trying very hard not to get pigeonholed into any category of writing. You can't call it a feminist piece, nor can you call it satire. Evelyn, a man who gets surgically transformed into Eve (and if transition was as easy as the sci-fi operation makes it, there would be many elated trans persons in the world) isn't a pleasant protagonist; he's at first arrogant and self-serving, then whiny, then self-serving yet again. Tristessa, his love interest, is a more fascinating character, but plays a relatively minor part. There's also plenty of rape and, for lack of more eloquent terms, nastiness that goes on before the end; I wouldn't call this light reading by any stretch of the imagination.

The writing itself is stunning, though; Carter's use of imagery and verbal texture is fantastic, and her way with detail (choosing where to include it and where to omit it, in particular) is superb.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars uncompromising and provoking, May 1, 2007
This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Angela Carter makes few concessions to the ordinary reader. She is abstruse, wilful, demanding, her vocabulary is immense, her intelligence daunting. She dares to make her characters one-dimensional (though colourful and believable), her story as unlikely and fantastic as possible.

The Passion Of New Eve is set in a vividly visualised, but almost unreal U.S.A. that is rapidly disintegrating into all-out civil war. 'Bizarre' might, perhaps, be an understatement when considering the plot. Amongst other things, Evelyn, a young, 'straight' young Englishman, is forced to undergo a sex-change operation that transforms him ('a change in the appearance will restructure the essence') into a perfect woman.

'Eve' is then - after an attempted escape - taken prisoner by Zero - a barbaric, one-eyed, one-legged man, and his personal harem of several 'wives', who worship him the more unquestioningly and eagerly, the more thoroughly he degrades them.

Following this, Eve - having found her true love - enjoys a sexual interlude in the desert that completes her realisation of herself as a fulfilled man-loving woman.

The best part of the novel is the beautiful ending. Here the author uses surrealistic imagery superbly in order to explore themes of time, re-birth and the inexorable power of nature. It is intensely affecting.

The whole book is held together by Carter's boldness and dazzling style. She is dreaming frightening and blackly resonant dreams, and by her artistry makes them plausible. A pity, then, that her uncompromising literary brilliance will alienate and bore those most in need of her provoking vision.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely a novel with an agenda...., May 29, 2014
This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I have loved all the previous Angela Carter novels I have read, but this one...not so much. Here's the difference: The others were beautifully written; contained interesting references, allusions, and symbols taken from mythology and fairy tale; were absorbing as to plot and character; and had a feminist subtext that was supported by the rest. This one takes the subtext and turns it into an AGENDA (with all caps), slights plot and character, and slams the reader over the head with the symbols. It is still beautifully written, in flowing and baroque prose, and that is its saving grace.

Set in an apocalyptic America, the bizarre plot concerns the forced sex change of the British male Evelyn into a female, a new Eve capable of bearing children, by a many-breasted fertility goddess. Obviously, this is not a plot to be taken literally, and that's OK for me under most circumstances. But when every single twist and turn and symbol and myth reference reiterate the same message, I want to shout, "I GET THE POINT ALREADY!"

To whom would I recommend this book? To scholars familiar with the symbolism found in mythology, folk story, and fairy tale--I'm sure I missed many references. To those highly interested in gender issues. To those who can enjoy a book just for the way it is written regardless of content. To those who don't mind being preached to. To all others I would recommend instead that they read Carter's 'Nights at the Circus' or 'Wise Children.'
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the complexities & the challenge of the novel!, May 6, 2014
This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
There are a lot of criticisms for this book, and they all seem to say the same thing. So let me first start off with saying this: Don't read this book if you are just a casual reader. You will not like it. I initially read this book for a senior level British Literature studies class in college. It's incredibly complex with a lot of underlying themes that I would have never caught onto had it not been for class. In fact, had it not been for the class, I may have hated it. That being said, I don't hate it. At all. Very bizarre. Violent at times. Difficult to read at times. Confusing. But the complexity of it is what I love about it. It forces you to think. If you don't like to think while reading, then you simply won't like it. That's not meant to be insulting. I don't like to think while reading all the time. Sometimes I want an easy, casual book. But this book is not that kind of book.

I should also point out that it is very satirical. Angela Carter was a very passionate person when it came to her beliefs, and those passions (no pun intended) bleed onto the pages of her works. She was a feminist. This book is NOT a man-hating novel, as much as it may seem that way.

I quite enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more of her works in the future. I love having my brain messed with, and this book did that. If you don't like having your brain turned upside down, well, find something that isn't Angela Carter.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Tries to be a feminist novel, and a sci-fi novel. Falls flat on both., February 20, 2013
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This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is the first novel I've read by Angela Carter, which I decided to purchase after reading her beautiful, exquisite retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, "The Company of Wolves."

The Passion of New Eve is about a mysognistic male named Evelyn who is transformed into an Eve by a Goddess cult in a futuristic, war-torn desert California. Carter's style is beautiful and rich, in sharp contrast to the traditionally sparse style of science fiction, and the ideas presented are interesting. This is what saves the novel for me, and why I found it to be an enjoyable read.

However, I was hoping for an interesting insight into gender roles, and that is not what I found. I found no particularly likeable or redeeming characters in the story. Eve seems to float through the story without purpose or will. The women, except for the iconic Tristessa, were either dumb or fanatical straw feminists. The men, soldiers and the egomaniac Zero, were equally sufferable. Eve's transformation is clinical and without much self-reflection. Transgender issues are handled clumsily, and when it is discovered that the actress Tristessa has a male member she is referred to a "he" for the rest of the novel. When Tristessa goes to "Mother" to be transformed into a woman, its written in the text that she is "too female" already.

The text does not stand alone as a feminist novel, or as a fully fleshed out science fiction novel. Wrapping up feminism in religious fanaticism and the lack of insight into gender roles makes the novel fall flat . Disappointed, but I will be picking up another Angela Carter book
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Apocalypse of Man and Woman, July 1, 2012
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This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Why isn't there more of a buzz about this novel? It is science fiction in grand style. But it's also a very different sort of science fiction. Carter was a surrealist and a feminist, and so she used the science fiction genre to explore gender, sexuality, and the war of the sexes. What she produced here was a very cerebral novel that dealt with these thorny topics. It is written in a richly poetic prose that was very captivating in itself. The story, although good, is not entirely what this novel is about. The Passion of New Eve is, in essence, a character study, while at the same time being much more. This is the rare novel that provides so much more than merely a good story. I think Carter outdid herself stretching the limitations of the form to the max in order to create a novel that one can really call a work of art.

I suspect that, one of the reasons why this novel is so little known, is because it differs from most of the popular science fiction genre in terms of its focus. Most science fiction concerns itself with how our creations (technology) can both benefit us and harm us. Carter envisions science and technology in the context of our gender roles, our archetypes, and patriarchy. She refuses to leave these things outside of the questions of science and technology. She brings these important concepts into the story and makes them part of the scenario, just as they are in real life. It occurred to me just how dishonest a lot of science fiction seems now, leaving these things out, these culprits, as if they have had nothing to do with the development of the modern horrors of the nuclear bomb, biological weapons, and whatever secret horrors they are working on now so as to make us feel that we have no choice or free will in anything--man trying to convince man that man is God.

Because the novel deals with gender and sexuality, there is an awful lot of graphic nudity, descriptions of rapes, misanthropy and misogyny. The central conflict of this novel is the war between men and women. In the apocalyptic future that is the setting for this novel, the war of the sexes has reached a point where men and women are fighting each other in military style, with weapons and, on the women's side, transgender surgery. The women of the city of Beulah are kidnapping random men and turning them into women. One of the most horrible passages in the book is the description of an involuntary transgender surgery, an emasculation. Here, Carter's gothicness comes through. She can't be happy unless she provides those gothic shudders. Equally harrowing, however, are the misogynistic horrors that the protagonist Eve undergoes once she flees Beulah and is captured by a woman-hater named Zero and his harem of female sex slaves.

It seemed to me that what Carter is saying here is that, we, humans, stop understanding each other when we stop being ourselves. When we get busy being "types" like archetypes (the leader of Beulah is a self-styled goddess calling herself Cybele, no less). One of the central characters, Tristessa, is a Hollywood screen goddess whom, as it turns out, is really a man. The sadness that she portrays so well and which has made her famous around the world is the result of her "secret." The women of Beulah think that men are the problem, so they run around turning men into women by literally emasculating them. Zero thinks that women are the problem, so he keeps a harem of basket cases around that he can humiliate. These women are his willing slaves because they have suffered sexual abuse, abandonment, etc. So they busy themselves being "women" for Zero and fitting into what he thinks that means. So no one in this book, except perhaps for Eve, is being herself. And this is hard because she lives in a world like our own, where we are constantly trying to conform to these "types," whether they are stereotypes, archetypes, or whatever. Communication and understanding simply cannot exist when people are not being themselves, and have no idea what it is to be themselves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable prose, December 15, 2011
This review is from: The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Imagine Voltaire's CANDIDE remastered and remixed with John Rechy, John Kennedy Toole, and John Waters (among others) and you begin to get a sense of this peripatetic classic; TRISTRAM SHANDY for the 20th and 21st centuries. Lurid, obscene, filled with excess of just about anything. And, to be sure, one of the most remarkable protagonists in the history of the novel: EVE/EVELYN.
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The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics)
The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics) by Angela Carter (Paperback - August 1, 1992)
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