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Bluebeard’s Castle is a Gothic suspense novel that relates the story of the fairy tale “Bluebeard” in an updated setting, featuring a husband with dark secrets and a wife in peril. It takes inspiration from Gothic novels such as Rebecca, Dracula, and Jane Eyre, and from classic Hollywood thrillers such as GASLIGHT and ROSEMARY'S BABY, to examine currently urgent issues about male violence and female desire.
While on holiday in Cornwall, Judith, a young, wealthy British mystery writer, meets and falls in love with Gavin, a handsome and charming baron. 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.
As Judith battles both internal and external demons, including sexual ambivalence, psychological self-torture, gaslighting, family neglect, alcoholism, and domestic abuse, she becomes more and more addicted to her wild beast of a husband, and more and more determined to tame him. The book poses the question: "Why do women stay with bad men?" The answer is contained within the tortured mind of the protagonist, whose richly layered fantasy life is parallel to that of the female romance novel reader.
The concept first began as a screenplay (and is still in development as a movie), and the book is the result of years of research and thinking. Like my film work, it combines outdated genres and styles (in this case, literary rather than cinematic styles), with deeply personal experiences and current cultural concerns, to create a work that is entirely new.
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Reviews for Bluebeard's Castle:
"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." —Kirkus Reviews
"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
"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
"A perfect literary debut for a one-of-a-kind filmmaker. And that cover!" —Sophia Stewart, Most Anticipated Books of 2023, The Millions
"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 Magazine
"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." —Booklist
"Author Anna Biller has already proven herself a master of this pulpy genre as the auteur of such cult films as The Love Witch and Viva, and here, she 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 a gothic romance turns legitimately terrifying, rooted in the all-too-real fear of sociopathic male violence." —Bust
Screen Slate Interview
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... [read more]
Mary Sue interview
For Anna Biller, known for her feminist cult films The Love Witch and Viva, the seed for her new novel Bluebeard’s Castle came from a classic film genre. “I’m really interested in ‘women in peril’ pictures,” Biller tells The Mary Sue. "The women in them have to solve this mystery: Is this man the love of my life, or does he want to kill me?”[read more]