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Wise Children [Hardcover]

Angela Carter
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Jun 1991
A family saga which recounts the tangled fortunes of two theatrical families. From Brazil, Texas and Australia in the 1890s, through London in 1914, the Blitz in 1940, then Italy and Hollywood, the book reaches a finale in London in 1990. The author also wrote "Nights at the Circus".


Product details

  • Hardcover: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st edition (13 Jun 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701133546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701133542
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 325,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Wise Children is Angela Carter's best book. It deserves many prizes and, better than that, the affection of generations of readers" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Inventive and brilliant" (The Times)

"A funny, funny book, Wise Children is even better than Nights at the Circus. It deserves all the bouquets, diamonds and stage-door Johnnies it can get" (Independent on Sunday)

"Wonderful writing...there is not much fiction around that is as good as this" (Daily Telegraph)

"Delightful...this is rich prose which demands thought. It's also wickedly funny and a great read" (thebookbag.co.uk) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'One of the century's finest writers' Sunday Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Originally published in 1991 and newly released in paperback, this final novel by Angela Carter (1940 - 1992) is a riotous, non-stop farce, as filled with twists, turns, travails--and twins-- as anything Shakespeare ever dreamed of. Told by Dora Chance at the age of seventy-five, the novel flashes back to the wildly iconoclastic childhood she shared with her twin sister Nora. "Chance by name. Chance by nature. We were not planned," Dora comments, explaining why they were unacknowledged and ignored by their father Melchior Hazard, the most famous Shakespearean actor of his day. ("The Hazards belonged to everyone," she declares. "They were a national treasure.")

Though their father may have been a "national treasure," he was also a self-centered and irresponsible hedonist, and Nora and Dora considered the doting Peregrine Hazard, Melchior's twin brother, their true "father." Brought up by their "Grandma" Chance, a "naturist" who claimed to be descended from the Booth family, the twins were surrounded by a bizarre assortment of "relatives," the result of their father's several marriages, which led to additional sets of Hazard twins who also adopted show business careers. As Dora describes her sexual coming-of-age, along with that of Nora, in bawdy and unapologetic language, she simultaneously describes their entry into show business as a song-and-dance team, a career that led to Hollywood.

As Dora's reminiscences continue at a manic pace--always exuberant, confident, and full of high emotion--the family's passion and love for life in all its variety become the real story here.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And the show began... 2 Feb 2007
Format:Paperback
I had to read this book for my A level english lit course. The first time i read it I hated it and couldn't wit until I saw the back of it. But as I had to study it I had to read it a few times first. The second time I read it I fell in love with it and I still read it now and see new things in it I hadn't picked up on before. Wise Children is now like a security blanket for me but I don't think many others from my class would've agreed with me and still think it's dull. So basically I'd say it's not for everyone but give the book a chance and it really does get better the second time around because you pick up on so much more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Live Dora! 31 Jan 2011
By Lovely Treez TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I read my first Angela Carter novel last year, The Magic Toyshop, reviewed here (...) and it was such an enjoyable reading experience I fully intended to read Wise Children soon afterwards...well, better late than never and what a wondrous ride it was.

Wise Children is narrated by Dora Chance, twin sister to Nora and illegitimate daughter of Melchior Hazard, the renowned Shakespearean actor. It's the twins' 75th birthday and Dora takes this opportunity to recount the dramatic story of their lives, born on the wrong side of the tracks in South London and into a life of musical theatre as chorus girls (aka "hoofers") which is but a faint copy of their natural father's "legitimate" acting career. However, fear ye not, that won't deter the Chance sisters from treading the boards, living life to the full and ending up having a less complicated and perhaps more enriching life than the legitimate children of Melchior.

Wise Children has copious amounts of twins and this twin theme mirrors the themes of illegitimacy versus legitimacy (not just in terms of birth), upper class and lower class, illusion and reality. However this is most certainly not a dull social treatise but an absolute powerhouse, rollercoaster ride of a tale with Dora very firmly at the helm. I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved Dora, an old gel who likes to give the impression that she doesn't give a damn yet she takes in the invalid ex wife of Melchior who has been abandoned by her upper class twin daughters. Being upper class is obviously not contingent upon being charitable and or/loyal.

At the outset I must admit to being rather befuddled by the huge array of characters in this tragi-comedy, but a quick glance at the Dramatis Personae will keep you right and let you sink into the story.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suspend your disbelief and go with the flow 17 Jan 2007
Format:Paperback
I had to read Several Perceptions a few years ago at uni and found it a torment - I like my books grounded in reality and have an aversion to features like magic realism and dream sequences. However, I know Angela Carter has many devoted fans and thought maybe I was missing something, so decided to give her a second chance with Wise Children.

I certainly found this book more enjoyable than Several Perceptions, notably because it does at least try to follow some kind of linear narrative and has more developed characters. Also, I liked the theatrical world it evoked, ranging from sordid goings-on in draughty local theatres to big-budget Hollywood glitz. The narrator, Dora Chance, is wickedly funny, she may be an old lady but I often found myself smiling at her wry and sometimes crude observations on life. I also warmed to the characters of Grandma and Uncle Perry, though twins Saskia and Imogen were like pantomime ugly sisters and Melchior wasn't particularly likeable. I did find myself getting quite confused and having to refer to the "cast of characters" at the back of the book to remember who everyone was (so many twins and uncertain paternities, they could keep Trisha busy for a year) - you really can't let your attention wander when reading this book.

Yes, this book is full of crazy coincidences and some of the "set piece" scenes are quite ridiculous, but if you can suspend your disbelief and silence the little voice in your head saying "that would never happen", it's quite an enjoyable read and I will probably try out some of her other novels.

It's worth adding that, although it's about 15 years old, this book is quite topical in many ways, particularly the satire of celebrity culture and people living their lives in public (the demise of Tristram and Tiffany's relationship on live TV, for example), while the image of Saskia as a TV chef suggestively licking spoons should strike a chord with today's readers!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Funny
I chose this as a possible comparison to the Kray Sisters by Carol Anne Duffy. Now they both make me laugh and I am sure any A level student who needs short but pithy texts for... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Shirley Thomas
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm
A slightly strange and confusing tale but makes for a good read, however the book pictured isn't the same as the one which arrived for me however this wasn't a problem
Published 3 months ago by maxine
4.0 out of 5 stars Weird and wonderful
Really made me hoot with laughter. What an imagination! She'd really 'got' the way people used to talk. Thoroughly recommend as a light read.
Published 4 months ago by sue
3.0 out of 5 stars Middling - no extremes of emotion for me
This was a book club choice and my introduction to Angela Carter. It was a bit of a struggle to get through it, but looking back there were parts I really enjoyed (more so than... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Wordsmith
2.0 out of 5 stars Didnt get it
I loved the Magic Toyshop, and Nights at the Circus
but this did'nt work for me
didn't fit together, didn't draw me in, it didn't create a world, just talks about... Read more
Published 9 months ago by S. A. Freeman
4.0 out of 5 stars An amusing read
I found this an amusing read but quite confusing with all the differing relationships and twists at the end. There was a very good portrayal of characters.
Published 9 months ago by Mrs Christine D Pleasants
5.0 out of 5 stars hilarious romp
hilarious romp - brilliantly written - the main character fairly crackles off the page - you have met her - you know her but you have never heard her side of the story before - a... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Barbara Osborne
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious an endearing
A tale that hurtles through theater and musical land in the 20th century - eccentric and surprising, not only in story lines, but also in the writing.
Published 13 months ago by A. N. HASTED
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and Funny!
This book is full of wonderful characters, in particular the twin sisters who reflect on their very unusual life. They had fun despite very dubious beginnings. Read more
Published 13 months ago by maychapman
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting peep at the lives generations before ours!
A very different style of writing to the other Angela Carter book I have read. This was quick paced and exciting. Read more
Published 13 months ago by mauveone
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