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35 of 39 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

versus
17 of 20 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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35 of 39 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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8 of 9 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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17 of 20 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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Angela Carter is without doubt one of the best authors I have read., 11 July 2013
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This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
I brought this book after reading 'The Bloody Chamber'. I enjoyed the themes and the way it was written so much that I wanted to read more Carter. Her world she writes is just captivating. When it comes to books, normally I prefer ones that aren't so heavy with their description. I like a story and find some books go OTT about, for example, the sound of the wind, the texture and contrast of the leafs, and sometimes it is a distraction. Carter IS an author who uses lots of description, but she does it in such a talented way. It's not essential to understanding the story, but if you do read into the symbolism of the description, the story she is telling has such philosophical depth.

I must say I was not at all disappointed. The book is split into three places; London, Russia, Syberia. I must confess to enjoying London and Russia more than the latter location. Not that there was anything wrong with it, it just was a bit demanding to read. It was very philosophical and very symbolic. London and Russia had more tales and stories, which is something I look for in a book, its a personal taste, so of course, if symbolism and description is what you relish then the latter third will probably be your favorite.

It was one of them that when you are not reading it, you are thinking about it. I have a feeling some of the references, the stories and the imagery used in this book will stay with me, and stay in my mind. I will read it again, I'm sure of that.

Finally, I would recommend to absolutely everyone and anyone. She is easy to read, but that doesn't make her stories simple. She really is a special author. I only wish she were still alive so there would be more wonderful, captivating books.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!, 9 April 2012
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This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
Sophie Fevvers is the star of Colonel Kearney's circus. She is the winged giantess, the 8th wonder of the world, the orphaned flying creature which is half bird, half woman. Jack Walser is an American journalist sent to do a piece on what he believes to be a simple conjuring trick combined with a clever piece of mechanical engineering. But as the interview gets under way, Jack starts to realise that his assumptions might have been hasty, and, strangest of all, time seems to stand still.

So starts the magnificent tale that is Nights at the Circus. We follow Jack and Fevvers as they travel through Siberia with the troupe of circus acts, all of which are miserable, mad, unpredictable, chaotic and passionate.

Fevvers is irresistible - Larger than life and bursting with feminine energy, it is impossible not to be drawn into her story and become a believer. Raised by prostitutes, desired by Dukes and venerated by the public, she is the perfect centerpiece to this three-ring circus of a tale. It is bursting with colour and originality, sexy, dangerous, feminine and endlessly entertaining.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Visually entrancing, 2 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
Angela Carter brings to life a riot of full bodied characters that burst with colour and jostle for attention in this visually entrancing novel. A kind of Alice in Wonderland for grown ups that delights all the senses. Much has been made elsewhere of Carter's feminist perspective and it is true that the female characters find strength and courage through one another's support ~ but this is no feminist polemic. The women are by no means all indomitable or morally superior: the prison governess, for example, perpetrates the most terrible cruelty on the inmates of her experimental asylum. The characters are dealt some hefty blows as they travel through London, St Petersburg and Siberia but despite their travails this is not a heavy-going novel ~ quite the reverse: it is full of life, laughter, colour and magic, and the story romps along at a cracking pace to reach it's optimistic, life affirming conclusion. A thoroughly enjoyable read
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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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This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Kindle Edition)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime modern classic, 18 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
An absolute joy to read, Nights at the Circus is a modern classic, and probably Angela Carter's best known work. Is Fevvers a con artist, or are her feathered wings real? Journalist Walser gets a lot more than he bargains for when he runs away with the circus, intending to expose her as a fraud.

Moving from London to St Petersburg to the wastes of Siberia, this must surely be a set text for anyone interested in magical realism, feminism and, really, 20th Century literature in general.

There's humour and romance, but also much that is deeply unsettling, and a succession of striking images, from the waltzing tigers of the circus, trapped in burning mirrors, to the winged Cupid herself, the enigmatic Fevvers and her colourful past. Unique and unmissable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating read, 25 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Nights At The Circus (Paperback)
This novel might not suit everyone, but I absolutely loved it.
I was introduced to Angela Carter by my granddaughter, who studied 'The Bloody Chamber' for 'A'Level, but I enjoyed 'Nights at the Circus' even more.
I'm not particularly fond of Magic Realism, but from the first page I was captivated by the cheerful, resourceful Cockney heroine, Fevvers, who was hatched, rather than born, and grew a pair of large wings on her back.
The novel is an account of her picaresque adventures as an 'aerialiste' in a circus at the end of the nineteenth century.
It's extremely amusing, exciting and heart-warming with a glorious, exhilarating ending.
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Nights At The Circus
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
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