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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern fairy tale
I was sceptical when my friends nagged me into reading Angela Carter. If anything, I was critical as I began reading it, but was soon won over by the sheer bizarre nature of Fevver's tale. Despite myself, I was drawn into this story. The characters, places and storyline are unforgettable, the tale a vivid, unbelievable romp with the circus from London to Siberia.
The...
Published on 19 Jun 2003 by Fuchsia

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Men! If only women could live without us...
Angela Carter is one of those writers who have been on the periphery of my personal reading radar for a while. Feminist friends revere her work. She's one of the big literary names who deal in fairy tales. And she's been massively influential.

Nights at the Circus is a novel about Fevvers - a cockney pronunciation of Feathers. She's a miraculous woman who has...
Published on 13 Jun 2012 by Federhirn


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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern fairy tale, 19 Jun 2003
This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
I was sceptical when my friends nagged me into reading Angela Carter. If anything, I was critical as I began reading it, but was soon won over by the sheer bizarre nature of Fevver's tale. Despite myself, I was drawn into this story. The characters, places and storyline are unforgettable, the tale a vivid, unbelievable romp with the circus from London to Siberia.
The only downpoint to this book, I would say, is that the narrative of the first part is a bit rambling and slow paced compared to the rest of the story, but this does nothing to detract from the overall wonder and brilliance of this novel.
Don't buy this book if you're looking for a gritty, realistic story, because "Nights at the Circus" is, if anything, fantasy. However, if you want an involving, amusing and enchanting modern fairy tale, this book is an absolute must.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Men! If only women could live without us..., 13 Jun 2012
By 
Angela Carter is one of those writers who have been on the periphery of my personal reading radar for a while. Feminist friends revere her work. She's one of the big literary names who deal in fairy tales. And she's been massively influential.

Nights at the Circus is a novel about Fevvers - a cockney pronunciation of Feathers. She's a miraculous woman who has wings and can fly, and she's found a career as an acrobat. The book is divided into three parts. In part one, she tells her story to an American journalist, backstage in a London theatre, over the course of a night. The journalist wants nothing more than to prove her fake and burst the bubble of her fame. In part two, she starts on a world tour with a circus, and the journalist, seduced by the mystical attraction of circus life, follows along, signing up as clown and living incognito in the circus. Part three, ... well, I'm not going to spoil the story.

The novel is written in quite dense prose. It is not a quick read, and requires some concentration. The story moves in unexpected ways, and every aspect of the novel becomes more and more surreal and dream-like as it progresses. Starting with a relatively straightforward biographical narrative, the growing sense of unease is infused into the story gently: something odd is happening with the passage of time. There are unspoken things, sudden changes in the flow of conversation, meaningful glances get exchanged.

In part two, the surreal / fantastical elements become more prevalent. Animals are different. Clowns have their own mythos. Some magic appears to occur (beyond a winged, flying woman). And part three - well, all bets are off in part three, and we're deep into surreal, dream like, trance like crazy. Narrative voices change from first person to third person from one paragraph to the next (up to this point, all was in third person), among other twisted writing methods. Part three feels like a bit of an acid trip in the 1960s, in some ways. But the story still gets (largely) rounded off.

Underlying the novel are a rather large number of ideas, half-thoughts and notions about gender, women, men and feminism. Sometimes they are voiced by the author, in a carefully chosen phrase in descriptive text. At other times, characters openly discuss these themes (a particularly memorably dialogue is an argument about relationships where a maternal figure tries to convince Fevvers that falling in love might be more harmful to her self than prostitution). Sometimes, there are plot developments that are symbolic or metaphorical. Women, on the whole, fare best when they connect and interact with other women: even a whore house is utopian and idyllic, with no conflict between the whores, just as long as the men are not around. But as soon as men are involved, there is violence. Wife beaters, wife murderers, sinister religious oppressors, rapists... even our male protagonist at some point casually considers raping a vulnerable, almost unconscious woman who finds herself temporarily in his care, although it never goes beyond a hateful throwaway thought. Women without men (or children) flourish in this novel. Men (and children) bring suffering and complete loss of self.

No wonder Angela Carter's novels are dear to the heart of any English students tasked with writing essays about feminist literary theories.

Densely written and surreal, at times experimental - this novel is not my usual fare at all. It has some beautiful passages and chapters and ideas. Fevvers is a memorable character, cheerfully low brow, sweaty, smelly and untidy, described in vivid detail and imprinting herself in my memory.

Yet as a story, the novel is not entirely satisfying. There are long passages where I was bored as a reader. Some plot devices seem too strange to have meaning or reason. Some storylines remain unresolved. In short, by the time I finished reading, I felt only half satisfied with it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The fascination of a swan, 7 Jan 2010
This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
A fabulous tale in all senses of the word. Written as a play in three acts: 1. American journalist Jack Walser interviews famous arialiste (arieliste?) Fevvers, part woman part swan, for his series "Great Humbugs of the World" - but, anticipating modern PR, the celebrity is very much in control; 2. Walser enlists in the circus, as a clown, to follow Fevvers to Petersburg - where his cover is blown and all begins to disintegrate; 3. The remnants of the circus press on via the trans-Siberian express to perform for the emperor in Japan, and sublime chaos is reached - to be put back together in the wilderness.

Angela Carter paints visual pictures with words - most memorably for me the Siberian tigers laying on the roof of the house, seduced by the music inside, as two very different parties converge from stage left and right; and the clowns' Christmas dinner arranged as Da Vinci's Last Supper, before Walser (the cock, his slung arm flapping) breaks the cover of his serving dish. She also builds comic momentum that had me laughing out loud (on my train through the snow), which I have to admit usually involved the clowns. Cock-a-doodle-do!

However, the switch to Fevvers in the first person, as she begins to doubt her own existence, and the sympathetic and erudite treatment of the Siberian shaman amazed me. Fevvers becomes both a shamanic dream and undergoes her own shamanic transformation, at the edge of civilisation and on the cusp of the 20th century - a transformation all of the remaining members of the circus experience in their own ways. She becomes the allegory for the liberated 'new woman' as the 20th century spins into life.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A magical set of characters, 28 July 2004
Richly written, the joy of this book is in the characters that Carter describes (you get the feeling she enjoyed writing it just as much): from the winged trapeze artist & her maternal assistant to the performing apes and their Professor, this is a book that surprises throughout with its imagination and detail.
This is all done at the expense of any particularly tight plot - we begin with an 80-page life story as told to journalist John Walser, but it then becomes more picaresque as we follow the circus and get to know the stories of its staff, with strong female characters particularly making their presence felt. The journey takes us an unusual route to an unusual end.
This is a world you can escape into - beautifully realised in the best tradition of magic realism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 7 April 2013
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Too disjointed and I didn't feel I could empathise with any of the characters. Perhaps because they were all rather too far fetched.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once in I don't want to get out!, 28 April 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
This is the first of Angela Carter's works that I have read. It took me ashort while to get into it at first - reading and re-reading passages toget used to the writing style - but once in I don't want to get out!
The characters are all colourful yet very disparate and whilst many do nothave much to recommend them Carter manages to show in them enough good orweakness for them to gain your respect, or at least your sympathy.
Above all this book is facinating... and imaginative, compelling, earthyand full of surprises... After my first experience of Angela Carter - I'mgoing to read them all!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angela Carter - Nights at the Circus, 21 Oct 2009
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
Another wonderful book by Angela Carter. I've never come across a writer who so revels in marvellous firework explosions of words, catherine wheels of ecstatic language. She's a language-lover's dream writer. This story is a spectacular adventure that bursts with the fantastic: fantastic character, fantastic scenes (the chimps in the circus, for example), fantastic stories (the potted biographies of the minor characters; the community of female criminals banished to Siberia) and fantastic ideas.

Her writing's a sensuous lexical feast. She has immense learning and wears it lightly. She's a Renaissance Woman of letters. She is, simply, a wonderful, wonderful storyteller, and a wonderful, wonderful writer. This and Wise Children are two of the most pleasurable novels I have ever come across.
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2.0 out of 5 stars meh, 25 July 2014
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I can't really rate this since I only got part way in ( maybe it gets better - I know a lot of people who really like it) but I found it quite dull. To my mind, some of the feminism is a bit dated and nothing's really going on, either in the storyline or many of the ideas it brings up... I liked the main character, so I might return to reading it one time..
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dancing tigers, 7 Oct 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nights at the Circus (Paperback)
Nights At The Circus is all about Fevvers, the cockney foundling who grew up with wings poking through her vertebrae. Abandoned by her real mother Fevvers is taken in by a prostitute, Lizzie, and becomes a kind of mascot for the whorehouse in smoky Victorian London. As the novel opens Fevvers is telling her story to a young American journalist, Jack Walser, who is flattered, cajoled, bamboozled and enchanted by the wonders which unfold. Later he is caught up with Fevvers and Lizzie's doomed journey to Russia and beyond with the Colonel's circus (and his fortune-telling pig), where they fall into the clutches of bandits and brigands on the Mongolian steppe and Jack Walser loses his memory and becomes a Shaman.

Angela Carter came to be known as a magic-realist writer and is known for dazzling the reader with the grand gestures of fabulist storytelling. This is one such fable, wrapped lightly in feminist theory and philosophical posturing (neither are intrusive to the galloping pace of the narrative). Along with dancing tigers, the reader is treated to the magical and creepy history of Clown-lore, the gothic horror of a freak exhibition and at least two villains determined to steal away or otherwise debauch the fantastic beauty at the centre of the book. But Fevvers has bestowed her love upon Jack Walser and she will not rest until she has won him back.

Set aside your prejudices against the genre for this is a modern classic; it thrums with humour, warmth and charm and is an enthralling read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read, 9 Feb 2014
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This book kept me engrossed to the end, I read a great deal but have never read Angela Carter before, her reputation is well earned and I will read more.
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Nights At The Circus
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter (Paperback - 29 Sep 1994)
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