Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wise Children by Angela Carter (4/5)

The back says: A richly comic tale of the tangled fortunes of two theatrical families, the Hazards and the Chances, Angela carter’s witty and bawdy 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.

I say: With the risk of sounding incredibly ridiculous, I must acknowledge that this was a tour de force of almost epic proportions. It was funny, surreal, awkward, gloomy, and pretty much every adjective in the English language.

But it was also silly to no end.

It would be impossible for me to even begin to explain the complexity of the way all of the characters relate to each other, but in short we follow Dora and Nora Chance, the illegitimate twin daughters of a great Shakespearean actor, Melchoir Hazard, as they reminisce about their lives as chorus girls, and their wish to be acknowledge by their father and his family. Like the blurb above says, there are a lot of twins and strangeness in these families.

And I loved almost every bit of it.

Nora and Dora are just the type of crazy old ladies I want to be when I grow up. They are incredibly cheeky, full of life and adventure and shockingly foul-mouthed when the situation requires it. I fell in love with them and they made me wish I had a twin that would always stand by me no matter what.

Because the cast is so great I’ll make due with saying that we have a collection of characters to last until the end of days. The kind and generous uncle that’s always on the move; the old actor who refuses to believe that his best days are behind him; the jealous legitimate daughters who do everything to hurt the Chances; the woman who takes care of Nora and Dora with a mysterious path; and so on and so forth.

Carter writes brilliantly and seamlessly introduces all of the characters without any fuss, and, for the most part, the plot is so energetic it’s like watching a film. There is a lot of humour in here, and I laughed out loud a lot, but also a lot of cringe worthy details, and serious emotional moments.

She does it all and she does it with flair.

The only reason this gets a 4/5 is because of the end. I can’t really go into it – obviously – but I shall say that as much as I would have liked to love it, I didn’t. Maybe other will think it perfect, but for me it was a tad too implausible even for this story. But I shall be on the hunt for more books by Carter.


  1. I've just read Nights At The Circus by Carter and it sounds like this was similarly MENTAL but also AWESOME and just kind of really overall entertaining? I'm into reading more Carter soon, so maybe you should read that, and I'll read this!

    1. I'll pop over and read your review and probably order it because you said 'mental' and that's pretty much all I need to hear about a book. And you should read this, it's hilarious.