Nights at the Circus Hardcover – Large Print, 7 Oct 2013
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'A remarkable book by any standards' Guardian 'Angela Carter has influenced a whole generation of fellow writers towards dream worlds of baroque splendour, fairy tale horror, and visions of the alienated wreckage of a future world. In Nights at the Circus she has invented a new, raunchy, raucous, Cockney voice for her heroine Fevvers, taking us back into a rich, turn of the 19th century world, which reeks of human and animal variety' The Times." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
One of twelve indispensable classic titles you'll want to treasure, at a price that allows you to collect them all. The perfect introduction to the depth and breadth of the superlative Vintage Classics list.'A remarkable book by any standards' Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Luxuriously lyrical and peopled by a huge cast of cacophonous eccentrics, such that the reader cannot begin to keep track of each one, it is as if Angela Carter went to every length to make her tale as chaotic and exceptionally unbelievable as possible. Above all else, it celebrates the ridiculous and the unexplainable, the surreal and the dazzlingly grotesque.
Here is evidence that plot need not follow a clear arc, and that characters need not be realistic, let alone likable. She gives us the vulgar and the ethereal, motives base and sublime. Beribboned in silk and velvets, her dark world of magnificent misfits and baroque tragedy is fascinating, as only the truly bizarre can be. It is an outlandish, irreverent, boisterous romp.
And, at the summit of this shabbily beautiful fable is the most gaudy and bizarre character of them all: the audacious, voracious, foul-mouthed, star-spangled, gloriously sexual, Fevvers. Acrobat extraordinaire, half-woman half-bird, she charms the crowned heads of Europe, the great, the good and the very, very bad.
We only gradually gain a sense of Fevvers’ true individualism, revealed stage by stage, to find that it derives not from her wings, but from her irrepressible spirit, even to the last pages, as she stumbles through snowy Siberia. We first join her as an adored spectacle with the Cirque de’Hiver, and then tumble through her terrible past: through her childhood as a ‘winged tableau’ in a Victorian brothel, and years as an unhappy exhibit in the Museum of Women Monsters, then into the perverse hands of a millionaire who wishes to sacrifice her miraculous being in pursuit of immortality.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an interesting book. I have read nothing like it. Fact or fiction? I hope fact!!Published 1 month ago by Stebbsie
Probably not a serious review but I read the first two pages and closed the book. The writing style is awful, like "TV speak", very American. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Le Tigre
Carter is God. Strange how all the one star reviews are written by women when you consider the subject matter. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Young K
It's okay - and let's get this out of the way - no one needs to die that young. Magical realism surfaced in the late-eighties, early nineties; and unkinder people would say it is... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Dan Smith