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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It's every woman's tragedy that after a certain age, she looks like female impersonator."
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...
Published on 20 Jan 2008 by Mary Whipple

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suspend your disbelief and go with the flow
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...
Published on 17 Jan 2007 by WordWoman


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It's every woman's tragedy that after a certain age, she looks like female impersonator.", 20 Jan 2008
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Wise Children (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. With vibrant dialogue, the novel resembles an off-the-wall play, full of non-stop action, entrances, exits, asides, and even a Dramatis Personae, allowing the reader to keep track of all the characters and their relationships. The changing of partners and the game of "musical beds" keep the romantic aspect of the novel front and center, even as the family's dramatic contributions, some of them more significant than others, are celebrated.

Dora's story races headlong toward the climax--the 100th birthday celebration of Melchior Hazard's life, when the twins are in their mid-seventies--and the final fifty pages of the novel are as slapstick, ironic, and full of surprises as any comedy ever written. Eventually, the mysteries of their lives and the unanswered questions are resolved, not that Dora cares much. At the age of seventy-five, she believes that "A mother is always a mother, since a mother is a biological fact, whilst a father is a movable feast." Life is to be lived, without wasting a moment, and if the reader has a hard time keeping up with the high-octane action in this novel, then the reader needs to get with Dora's program. One must look, not on the bright side, but at reality. Ultimately, Carter tells us, through Dora, "Comedy is tragedy that happens to OTHER people." Mary Whipple
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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
By 
F. Vowles "tinks848" (essex) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wise Children (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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Live Dora!, 31 Jan 2011
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Wise Children (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. I would hope that this list of characters now appears at the front of the novel rather than at the back where I found it, rather frustratingly, when I had read the last page! "Design faults" aside, Dora's story has echoes of Shakespeare, Dante, Boccacio, Greek drama alongside the more low-brow allusions to music hall performers with their lewd jokes. Actually there is probably not that much difference between the high and the low at all - just that the likes of Dora and co tell it as it is rather than couching their words in obtuse, metaphorical language.

There is so much exhuberance and engagement with life in Wise Children and given that it was written after Angela Carter was diagnosed with cancer, I can't help wondering if this is her song to life, her legacy for her young child, as the closing lines state "What a joy it is to dance and sing!". And what a joy it is to have read this madcap, life affirming novel - if I am blessed to live into my 70s, I certainly want to adopt some of Dora's philosphy rather than slipping into grumpy old woman mode!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suspend your disbelief and go with the flow, 17 Jan 2007
By 
WordWoman (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wise Children (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An acquired taste, admittedly, 9 Nov 2006
This review is from: Wise Children (Paperback)
Ever seen the film Moulin Rouge? Near the beginning, when everything goes a bit crazy and swirls around throwing information at your in a very over the top and in you face fashion?

Now imagine that in book form. Add a huge dollop of sex, Shakespeare and insanity, with just a pinch of incest, and that is Wise Children for you.

Angela Carter's narrative is fabulous, she is undoubtedly one of the most talented writers I have ever read from, with an almost unique ability of weaving stories under stories under stories and all in between. Wise Children is no exception to this. Practically every line is an allusion to a different text, every event has significance, and every character is there for a very important reason.

OK, so Wise Children isn't for everyone. It's a book you have to immerse yourself in completely, and don't be put off by the bizarre nature of it all. In my view, a new classic in the making.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, complex, funny work of art., 20 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Wise Children (Paperback)
Being guided through the lives and times of the Chance sisters is an exhilarating experience. With fabulously three-dimensional characters, witty one-liners and clever links with all things Shakespearean and theatrical this is a definite "must-read". In short, I loved this book.I was asked to analyse the first chapter in an English Literature mock A-level exam and knew from then I just had to read on! There is some exceptional use of imagery and metaphor here which are clear and really brinbg this book to life. Whilst being extremely entertaining, this novel is also strangely tragic - it must be remembered that the auther had terminal cancer whilst writing this book and died two months after it's publication. This is a tragedy to all lovers of a good read as there will be no more pieces produced by this wonderful writer. The mixture of the "glitz and glam" of the showbiz world and the stark realities of being orphaned make for one of the most exciting novels I have read yet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wise choice, 26 Mar 2010
By 
Oracle - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Wise Children (Paperback)
A favourite book from one of my favourite authors. Wise Children is a little different in style from Angela Carter's other novels. For the most part it takes a lighter tone and the symbolism is less overbearing than a novel such as the Passion of New Eve or The Magic Toyshop. The narrative takes the form of the memoirs of an irascible old lady from a famous showbusiness family, whose powers of recollection beginning to fade. Wise Children is funny and surreal throughout and the scenes set in 1930s Hollywood glitter with particular brilliance. But first and foremost Wise Children is a novel which is an exploration of the nature of truth and identity and is a exceptional read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jump on board for a rocket ride through the 20th Century, 25 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Wise Children (Paperback)
Jump on board for a rocket ride through the 20th Century with the Chance sisters as your conductors. Stopping at Brixton, Brighton, New York, Hollywood and all places in London, Carter captures the zeitgeist of the years, as she weaves her tale 'with a carillion of laughter and a kerchief of tears'. The story of twin sisters, destined to the 'jam down' side of life, two feisty chorus girls who seize the day, and the night too; Wise Children is a celebration of wrong-sidedness (the Thames river, the bedclothes, showbusiness - the Chance sisters are always on the bastard side) and the fine line between respectability and flash.
Carter's prose is alive and vibrant, as characters step from the page, well-defined and often with an excellent sense of comic timing - this is a prose that begs many readings.
A comic novel that is actually funny; a future masterpiece of English literature; an exquisitly written romp of shakesperian proportions: Wise Children is a millenial novel that should be read by generations of fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A celebration of song, dance and poetry, 28 Sep 2009
By 
Rowland Nelken (Nottingham, England, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wise Children (Paperback)
This story is a transfiguration of life's essential glory, whether tragic or comic. I happen to share the narrator's concluding sentiment, 'What a Joy it is to Dance and Sing'. The Chance Sisters are the central characters in this mini saga about a showbiz family from the mid decades of the twentieth century. The narrative is made up, in some considerable part, of quotes from Shakespeare, from popular song lyrics and comics' catch phrases.

The sisters are lifelong jobbing hoofers; in the 1930s they become minor celebs. They are portrayed, in old age, in the 1980s, as a pair of old tarts, mutton dressed as lamb with comical overdone makeup, and living in a seedy rented apartment. They have no regrets. As kids they knew, after their first lesson, that dance was to be their life.

Had I known no Shakespeare, however; had I not been raised by my grandmother who would sing so many of the story's songs; had I never heard Max Miller on the radio, much of this story's charm may have eluded me.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a bawdy romp?, 31 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Wise Children (Paperback)
No, of course not, but Carter only lets literary pretensions get the better of her at the end. Until then, it's an enjoyable read. It may be a bawdy, raucous melodrama, but that's the point.
A word of warning, however - don't let the first 30 odd pages put you off. Whilst the first paragraph grabs the attention and keeps it for the next few pages, Carter's rapid, fleeting, expositional and somewhat remote style might be off-putting. However, stick with it, because, whilst it remains like that for much of the book, that's part of the charm. You just have to let yourself go to the storytelling charms of the protagonist Dora.
Wise Children is witty, the prose is knowing (but not self-consciously so) and the characters, whilst stereotypical in places, absolutely spot on for capturing the pomp and sordid side of showbiz throughout the last century.
I'll definitely be checking out some of Carter's other pieces in light of this one.
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Wise Children
Wise Children by Angela Carter (Paperback - 16 Jan 1992)
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