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Nights at the Circus Paperback – March 4, 1986
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Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Loud, bawdy, and unabashedly sentimental
a wonderfully vital creation."
The New York Times
"Night at the Circus is good, clean funwell, good fun anyway. Its raunchy moments are steaming, bizarre, at times unsettling, but there is definitely an appreciation here for love, sentiment, and entertainment."
Raymond Mungo, San Francisco Chronicle
"A three-ring extravaganza
Carter's brand of fanciful and sometimes kinky feminism has never been more thoroughly or entertainingly on display."
From the Back Cover
“Intensely amusing and also provocatively serious. This is a big, superlatively imagined novel.” -- Observer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Sophie, or "Fevvers," is billed as "Is she fact or is she fiction?" Tall, commanding, and winged, this half-bird Amazonian captures the interest of Jack, an American newspaper reporter who initially tries to pick apart her story of being half-bird as a sham, but soon is mesmerized by Fevver's eloquent autobiography, macabre adventures working in brothels, and outgoing personality, enough that he joins her circus as a clown and follows them to Russia.
The novel is told from various characters' perspectives, which made it confusing for me the first few pages each time the narrator changed, until I knew who was talking. The novel feels almost schizophrenic at times, rapidly switching points of view and narration at the drop of a hat. The story itself is prone to flights of fancy, including homicidal clowns, bizarre sexual escapades involving a group of Sapphic convicts in the Russian wilderness, a high-ranking politician obsessed with the occult, a freak show brothel, a lesbian relationship between an animal trainer and an abused orphan, and the sex lives of the circus crew. The plot becomes more and more improbable and more fantastic towards the end of the novel, where reality was left behind for once and all.
Overall, an imaginative, enjoyable romp filled with unexpectedly elegant turns of phrase, plenty of (erotic) action, glittering descriptions of upper class life in Russia and the gritty reality of the working poor in London and St. Petersburg, and the timeless thrill of the circus: its exotic animals, collection of ragtag performers, and the illusion of the extraordinary.
The story itself is altogether fun with a cast of charmingly eccentric characters ranging from the outlandish, entrepreneurial circus owner Colonel Kearney, whose companion is an oracular pig named 'Sybil,' to the character of Boffo the Clown, whose outwardly comical appearance belies the disturbing and tragic pagliaccio figure within. The most prominent aspect of the portrayals in the text, however, is found in the female characters who are presented as strong and triumphant, outshining their often emotionally infantile male cohorts. From the naïf turned musical ingenue Mignon to the main character Fevvers, whose wit and charm is balanced by her down to earth portrayal (a woman who eats!), the representation of females challenges the depiction of women by the male authorial voice that had dominated throughout the centuries. Smartly set at the tail end of the Victorian Era, the images of femininity in the text are made to break free from the restrictive representation of women in literature as either the goddess on the pedestal or the imbecilic whore.Read more ›
The book is a treasure chest brimming with thoughtful, dark, emotionally tinged vignettes with multidimensional (to say the least) characters...the sad stories of several "freaks," Buffo the Great, the manic clown philosopher, kind murderesses, lechers, posers for the dead...I cannot do Carter's creativity justice, and I don't want to ruin the story.
It is a bit graphic and kinky; I wouldn't recommend it to all of my friends. But if you're at all interested in Carter, feminism, magical realism, fantasy, circuses, unconventional fiction, the late 19th century, a rollicking good read...pick the book up now!!!
In his new undercover role as a clown, Jack enters the magic world of the circus, where a pig can point to letters to spell out business advice to the owner, where monkeys negotiate their own contracts, and where his Sophie "flies" with multi-colored wings as part of her trapeze act.
Then the circus train is blown up by outlaws somewhere in the middle of Siberia, and Jack loses his memory and is separated from Sophie and the others. Found by a native shaman, Jack is covered in eggshells from the train's kitchen and is "hatched" to become a shaman-in-training.
And he and Sophie meet again.
Nights at the Circus could be considered a book of magic realism, but it much more magical than realistic. It is more like a surrealistic dream, where anything can happen. What is real and what is an illusion? As a fakir in Kathmandu says to Jack, "...is not this whole world an illusion? And yet it fools everybody."
Many people abhor stories that are not "true-to-life"--which, as they see it, could never happen.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A whimsical tale of love an intrigue set amid the great cities of the world at the turn of the twentieth century. A very enjoyable read.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I read this for my Halloween book. It understood it to creep and dark - and considering it about the Circus (which creep me out) - I thought it should be sufficient for a... Read morePublished 3 months ago by empress8411
I'm about 2/3 into the novel as of today, and it's pretty good, although it can get a little confusing at times.Published 3 months ago by Karen
https://poseidons99.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/angela-carter-nights-at-the-circus/Published 7 months ago by Arnis
Shatters conventions of gender stereotypes while being entertaining and viable. I'll definitely read more Angela Carter.Published 8 months ago by Michael
Angela Carter is a terrific writer with a Brobdingnagian vocabulary and extravagantly rich style of writing. Read morePublished 8 months ago by H. Williams
I admire this writer for coming up with a unique story that is both imaginative and unpredictable. Considering how playful the subject is -- a traveling circus of a magical... Read morePublished 10 months ago by J. GREENBERG
Angela Carter is an under-appreciated classic. This book had me spellbound. So witty and alluring--totally fun.Published 13 months ago by S. Glyn Nelson