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Wise Children: A Novel Paperback – December 10, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (December 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374530947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374530945
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Carter, a splendid British writer ( The Magic Toyshop ; Nights at the Circus ) all too little known here, has a real winner in this giddy tale of a highly eccentric British theatrical family. Nora and Dora Chance are twin sisters, former vaudeville dancers not beyond some high-stepping sex even at age 75, living in a once rundown but newly smart area of South London. Dora tells their tale, and her narrative voice is a triumph: deeply feminine, ribald, self-deprecating (on their birth: "We came bursting out on a Monday morning, on a day of sunshine and high wind when the Zeppelins were falling"). Their mother, seduced by the legendary actor Sir Melchior Hazard, dies giving birth; the girls are brought up by the landlady, and eventually come to nurture one of Melchior's several cast-off wives. Meanwhile, his brother Peregrine, who once set off to wander the world. . . . The extravagant family comes together for a lavish 100th birthday party for British institution Sir Melchior, at which skeletons galore clatter out in full view of a national TV audience. The party is one magnificently unforgettable set-piece. The other is the filming, in Hollywood in the late '30s, of a terrible version of A Midsummer Night's Dream , by a culture-mad producer--one of the funniest and most deadly portraits of moviedom ever penned. But the whole book is comic writing of the highest order: spry, witty, earthy and oddly touching at times. It was a large success in Britain, and deserves to do as well here.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

On their 75th birthday, we meet Dora and Nora Chance, former dancers and illegitimate twin daughters of one of Britain's leading theatrical actors. They relate their colorful and amusing family history as the novel unfolds, describing their often strained relations with the legitimate branch of the family. Carter writes in a dry, comic, British style reminiscent of Fay Weldon. There is a good deal of theater chatter and a raucous Hollywood tour the girls undertake with father Melchior and his twin, Uncle Peregrine. Still, while there is much imaginative fun, the insider humor may be too parochial for American tastes. Libraries can probably skip this one.
- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The novel is written in a complex manner, with time as fluid a theme as language.
P. Chirathivat
The twins make a career out of singing and dancing, sometimes even performing with thier father.
Alex Hodgman
Needless to say it's one of the few books I found worth keeping once I had my BA in hand.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
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.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Jane on August 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
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 !
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Lee on August 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
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