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The Magic Toyshop (Virago Modern Classics) Paperback – 31 Dec 1981

4.2 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (31 Dec. 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860681904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860681908
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.8 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

The boldest of English women writers (Lorna Sage)

Her writing is pyrotechnic - fuelled with ideas, packed with images and spangling the night sky with her starry language (Observer)

She can glide from ancient to modern, from darkness to luminosity, from depravity to comedy without any hint of strain and without losing the elusive power of the original tales (The Times)

Beneath its contemporary surface, this novel shimmers with blurred echoes-from Lewis Carroll, from 'Giselle' and 'Coppelia,' Harlequin and Punch.... It leaves behind it a flavor, pungent and unsettling (New York Times)

Book Description

In this, her second novel, (awarded the 1967 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize) Angela Carter's brilliant imagination and starting intensity of style explore and extend the nature and boundaries of love.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting if not rather weird story. If your looking for twists and turns mixed with scary and magical then this is the book for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It arrived early and is in almost perfect edition. For a penny this is great value!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Didn't enjoy the book (chosen by our book club) but excellent delivery
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Format: Paperback
** spoiler alert ** I found myself enjoying this even more than Nights at the Circus, which is saying something. There's just something about Angela Carter's writing that I really love; she has such a forthright, yet lyrical style!

It's one of those strange books where nothing 'much' happens. We follow Melanie, a 15 year old who is set upon discovering her sexuality. After her parents die, she moves to her Uncle Phillip's house, a poverty-stricken topshop. Here, she meets her Uncle's kindly wife, Aunt Margaret, plus her two brothers, Francie and Finn.

Finn serves as Melanie's unlikely aide for awakening her sexuality, and I just love how the author describes him; he's certainly no stud and frequently behaves in a strange, surreal manner. His cooler, calmer brother has a rather dramatic secret of his own, which is revealed at the end.

It's a fabulous, slightly weird read - thoroughly enjoyable.
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By sally tarbox TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
Utterly readable, magical tale in a surreal world (puts me somewhat in mind of Barbara Comyns' writing).
The novel opens with Melanie becoming aware of her approaching adulthood, dancing in the night time garden in her mother's wedding dress:
'Melanie let herself into the night and it snuffed out her daytime self at once, between two of its dark fingers...Trees laden to the plimsoll-line with a dreaming cargo of birds.'
But a sudden change of circumstances sees her and her siblings forced to live with the horrible Uncle Philip and his mute Irish wife and her two brothers. Uncle Philip's profession and passion is toymaking, specifically his lifesize puppets.
Amid the cold and gloom, Melanie forms a tentative friendship with Finn...
I found the ending rather abrupt with a lot of unanswered questions, but this is far outweighed by Ms Carter's brilliant writing style.
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By Lovely Treez TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 April 2010
Format: Paperback
A coming of age tale with a twist - following the sudden death of her parents, our protagonist, Melanie, finds herself and her two younger siblings shunted off to stay with a fiercesome uncle and his bizarre family. Melanie embarks on a strange voyage of self discovery, learning about love, life and lascivious relatives en route.

A seemingly simple plot conceals an elaborate, Gothic tale as our heroine, not unlike Lewis Carroll's Alice, finds herself thrown into a weird, unfamiliar world peopled with grotesque characters. Nothing ever seems clean in this new environment, the lines between right and wrong become increasingly blurred and the reader is forced to question previously held beliefs about good and evil.

None of the characters are particularly appealing - Aunt Margaret is a mute who lives very much under the thumb of Uncle Philip who is not quite your archetypical kindly toymaker. Margaret's unkempt brothers, Francie and Finn, are almost dehumanised, also reduced to puppet like creatures manipulated by Philip.

In stark contrast to the grimy, claustraphobic setting, Angela Carter's writing style is beautifully lyrical. Thus, the macabre and the grotesque seem more palatable and less disturbing to the reader. Elements of the Gothic, Grand Guignol, Hammer Horror and a pinch of Shirley Jackson (We Have always Lived in the Castle) make this short novel a rollercoaster ride of powerful sensations - those of a nervous disposition and those who prefer neat, tidy endings would do well to stay clear! This was my first taste of Angela Carter's writing and I have a feeling I am going to savour the rest of her novels with equal satisfaction.
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By E. A. Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
Angela Carter was a master of really weird magical realism. Her second book "The Magic Toyshop," is basically a forcible coming of age/first love story, wrapped in a fairy-tale ambience and exquisitely detailed writing, but it's hard not to be frustrated by the abrupt, bizarre finale.

Melanie and her two siblings are suddenly orphaned, and whisked away from the beautiful country house and idyllic life they've always known. Soon they're living in a slummy area of the city, with their brutish toymaker Uncle Philip, wraithlike mute Aunt Margaret, and her two brothers, in a house that is crammed with the magnificent toys that Uncle Philip creates.

Melanie finds herself increasingly drawn to her aunt's brother Finn, a feisty Irish boy who hides an artistic soul and a punk attitude -- and he and Philip are locked in a silent war. As the family tensions come to a climax, Melanie learns of a dark secret that Aunt Margaret is hiding, and which can only end in a horrific tragedy.

"The Magic Toyshop's" title would make you think that it's about... well, the toys, or the toymaker. Instead, it's all about Melanie's maturation into a young woman, and how she leaves her childhood behind. Unfortunately it starts to stagger toward the finale, as if Carter didn't know how to deal with all this stuff.

What makes this novel so intoxicating is the lush writing. Carter fills her prose with a ripe sensuality, rich in colours, sensations, feelings and impressions (such as the horrifying attack by a swan puppet, a la Leda). And she accurately captures a young girl's dreams and exploration, such as Melanie posing before a mirror, pretending to be a classic artist's model.
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