This is the comic tale of two theatrical families, the Hazards and the Chances. The novel is populated with as many sets of twins, and mistaken identities as any Shakespeare comedy, and celebrates the magic of over a century of show business.
Angela Carter's Wise Children is a riotous saga about the rise and fall of an entertainment dynasty. The narrator Dora Chance, less a heroine than an exuberant, sagacious chronicler of her times, makes up one half of an illegitimate pair of twins, who have gone painfully unacknowledged for decades by their aristocratic father, Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his generation. They also just happen to share a birthday with him, and the story begins on the twins' seventy-fifth, when an invitation arrives from the Hazard estate for Melchior's centenarian celebration. As the twins sit around their ratty East London abode, pondering what to wear, the pause gives Dora an opportunity to reflect on the past events of her tumultuous life. Fortunately, she has no intention of keeping things to herself. "Have I got a story to tell," she winks, and she delivers with gusto, launching into an incredible account of her glittering roots as part of a showgirl duo, the Lucky Chances. The story begins long before the shady mystery of the twins' births, since Dora takes on the unofficial responsibility of preserving her family's legend for posterity. The poignancy of her narration becomes even more urgent when she hints at how close the story came to not being told - that this magnificent dynasty might have slipped through the silent cracks of history. The theatrical world of her grandparents is an intricate Shakespearean web of intrigue and international affairs, where Lears fall in love with their Cordelias and Othellos murder their Desdemonas (with reason). Eventually, the twins' story begins, with a surreptitious affair between a maid and the future thespian laureate, Melchior, who immediately abandons the scene. Luckily the girls are swept up in the arms of the maid's boarding house owner, Grandma Chance, who is soon joined by the girls' irresistible, hyperkinetic uncle Perry, determined to make up for their lack of a father. Inevitably, the girls feel the stirrings of the stage in their blood, and with hard work and sparkling charm they soon become the most celebrated dancing girls in London. The inside cover excitedly declares that Carter delivers a Shakespearean plot, and true to form, Dora's tale is replete with bastards, mistaken identities, misshapen creatures, strange lands (Hollywood), and vibrant characters of every social stripe. At heart, Dora's tale spans the ambivalent range of tragicomedy, a bawdy but unabashedly literary tribute to the spectacular circus of human experience. Through Dora's deeply warm and empathetic voice, the people in her life are imbued with glowing life force, fully realized possibilities. There is tragedy, yes, but it is always accompanied with a healthy dose of reality, which Dora firmly believes lies at the heart of Grandma Chance's teaching - "Hope for the best, expect the worst." In the end, everything comes full circle - the gnarled knots of a century of disappointment and unlucky happenstance are t
Terribly British, Terribly Good
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 17 years ago
Great book. Angela Carter obviously loves words and is not afraid to play with them. There are a lot of characters in this book (another reviewer complained) - I drew a quick family tree which helped. For me, part of the joy of this book was all of the characters who spilled out from the pages. Messy and rambuctious, yes, but like life. I wish Edward Gorey had illustrated this book - his quirky, gothic style jives with Carter's tale perfectly. Make your self a cup o' tea and enjoy.
Hilarious, Dramatic, Different
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
Wise Children is a funny yet touching tale of the lives of a theatrical family. Narrated by one of the Chance twins, Dora, it charts the ups-and-downs of the twins' lives, as well as encounters with both loved and hated relatives; with almost every member of the vast family a theatrical performer.I've read quite a few Angela Carter books, and (while Wise Children is still written in that unmistakable Carter style) it seems far more light-hearted than, for example: Love or The Magic Toyshop, and has a completely different vocabulary, as Carter adopts the voice of Dora Chance -- deliciously witty, with a strong feminist tone, relatively simple vocab, and an entirely unrelenting appetite for drama.I was a little dubious about reading Wise Children, as the blurb implied a knowledge of Shakepeare would be beneficial when it came to understanding the book, and that the multiple sets of twins and family secrets would become highly confusing. While any subtle Shakepeare references (aside from the obvious) went right over my head, it seems that they played a minor part in the book, as it's full of raucous wit, bubbling personality, theatrical dramatics, and an inexhaustable thirst for life. As for the numerous characters and their relation to each other: Carter manages to evoke such a vivid picture and to bestow each character with such simplistic, unique features, that you become invovled in the Hazard/Chance story (therby avoiding any confusion.)While the ending to this book seemed a little too good to be true, it fitted in with the unrealistic aspect of the book, and the dramatic nature of nearly every major character.A great read (as with almost every Angela Carter book) I highly recommend Wise Children.
Make no mistake, this is Carter's piece de resistance
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 20 years ago
Angela Carter's last novel,"Wise Children", may well have been the crowning glory to her illustrious career as a fiction writer. It's a coup de grace and her piece de resistance. You don't need to be an afficionado of Shakespeare to appreciate the dazzling humour of Carter's story and celebration of "wrong-side-of-the-trackness" in a theatrical family of multigenerational twins (the Hazards) or thrill to their cross-Atlantic adventures but it'll surely heighten your sense of pleasure if you're familiar with the Bard's comic characters and able to pick them out from among the novel's fabulously diverse and colourful personalities. The novel starts on a promising note and quickly settles into a swinging groove, which Carter skillfully sustains with a momentum that just builds and builds, constantly hitting new highs just when you think it can't get any better. A diabolically clever mix of pathos and humour maintains the balance between realism and a sense of the ridiculous which is unmistakeably Carter. Her legendary tongue twisting, mind bending, linguistic pyrotechnics is in full flower and display throughout. She's in top form and those familiar with the Bard's "King Lear", "Winter's Tale" and "Tempest", among others, will delight in the resonance that the novel's many references evoke. The denouement is also a masterful sleight of hand that is distinctively Carter. "Wise Children" is quite the most fascinating and entertaining novel I have read and enjoyed all year. I finished the book with such a good feeling it carried me for days. This is an "absolute must" for those who love contemporary literature of the finest quality. Don't miss it !
Jump on board for a rocket ride through the 20th Century wit
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 22 years ago
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.
Wise Children Mentions in Our Blog
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Published by Bianca Smith • April 23, 2018
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