I was really happy to discover the old edition of this book is still around, as the new edition doesn't seem to be as good (by reading other people's reviews). This book is a little gem. Some of the stories are disturbing, some funny, some moving, but all leave you with something. I particularly loved the language: Carter chose to write up the stories in the closest possible way to how people would tell them in their native languages, and it really works. Fairytale books are usually "polished"and cleansed from sex and violence, whereas these stories feel real and vivid. Really great book.
I love this book (and its successor the second virago book of fairy tales). It contains fairy tales from all around the world, the common thread being that they are focused on women. Some of them seem familiar - variations on tales we know but with different cultural twists. Some are completely new to me (eg from African and Inuit traditions). Although you might think that a book of fairy tales is for children, I don't think that this one is - many of them are too rude or too gruesome. This one is for grown-ups to savour and delight in. (Since I discovered it, many of my friends have received it as a present). I placed it in my "smallest room library", as short stories are perfect for that place, and judging by the chuckles and rather-longer-than-usual visits, it has been appreciated!
I have just sold this book. I started to read it because it did not look like a normal childrens fairy story book. Wow ! I read three of the tales and almost peed my pants.... I had to force myself to get it wrapped and dispached. I wish now i'd told the guy it was lost and kept it for my self. Whoever buys this book will be in for a great suprise.