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The Magic Toyshop

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The Magic Toyshop [Paperback]

Angela Carter
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 1996
One night Melanie walks through the garden in her mother's wedding dress. The next morning her world is shattered. Forced to leave the comfortable home of her childhood, she is sent to London to live with relatives she has never met: Aunt Margaret, beautiful and speechless, and her brothers, Francie, whose graceful music belies his clumsy nature, and the volatile Finn, who kisses Melanie in the ruins of the pleasure gardens. And brooding Unlce Philip loves only the life-sized wooden puppets he creates in his toyshop. This classic gothic novel established Angela Carter as one of our most imaginative writers and augurs the themes of her later creative work.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Originally published as Honeybuzzard (LJ 1/1/67), Shadow Dance launched British author Carter's career, which she buttressed with The Magic Toyshop two years later. Both received praise from LJ's reviewers, especially the latter novel, which was hailed as an "extraordinary, even brilliant piece of writing" (LJ
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A magic novel, sexy and eccentric, romantic and tricky."
Voice Literary Supplement

"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."
The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140256407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140256406
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Place to Begin Reading Angela Carter November 2, 1998
I've been knocked out by every Angela Carter book I've read, but for some reason this early effort is my favorite. It doesn't contain her most gorgeously drunken prose (I think that honor goes to "Wise Children") or showcase her unique storytelling gifts as well as her short fiction does, but it's a powerhouse all the same.
There are some great scenes here: the sensuality of the girl's private dream world at the beginning of the novel, the crushing finality when she and her brother arrive at their uncle's house and she realizes what a grim turn her life has taken, the descriptions of her brother, their monstrous uncle, his long-suffering wife and hapless brothers-in-law, the bizarre puppets her uncle creates.... This is highly imaginative stuff, and it doesn't let up for a minute.
"Nights at the Circus" and "Wise Children" are both very funny novels, and even their darkest episodes can't diminish the humor. "The Magic Toyshop" sinks into darkness very early on and remains there for most of the novel. But Melanie is such an engaging and sympathetic character that you never once give up hope that somehow, she'll find some kind of escape from the dismal world into which she's thrown.
If you've never read Angela Carter, this is a good place to start. It's a bit more traditional than many of her other novels, but it has plenty of bite and a set of characters you'll never forget.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Toyshop horror romance? January 21, 1999
By A Customer
It seems I can't go back to this book without recalling the conditions in which I read it - I had just entered a four weeks-schooling period (an obligatory choice for military service in my country), which took place in a remote manor house in the countryside, it was full summer and very hot, and I shared a tiny room with a guy who never spoke a word. I was extremely bored and horrified at the thought that this would be my life for a month onward. At nights I read this book about a girl who also enters a world she doesn't find very pleasing, and even though I'm not suggesting that I experienced nearly that amount of misery, I truly could identify with her. I felt like being locked in a cage, but this book liberated me in a way.
Which isn't to say it is a very optimistic or light-hearted work. Not in any sense. But it's written with emotion and humour, the author's voice is very sympathetic. It makes you think about life. So what, we're all prisoners, there's no way out, just keep on doing what you do, but it's good to remember once in a while that dreams never hurt.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing, dark story November 7, 2000
By Sabrina
In 1991 I saw the film version of this book on A&E and was immediately hooked. Carter wrote the screenplay, and while the film had many elements of magical realism not in the book, it was an almost perfect adaptation. I wish I could see it again! After searching in vain for a copy of the book in the US, I finally found one in a small bookstore in Sydney, Australia in '92, and have been reading it at least once a year since then. Although it was one of Carter's earliest works, its strange rhythm and imagery are spellbinding and very mature, and yes, it does have echoes of traditional fairy tales, something that became somewhat of an obsession for Carter in later years. It's a wonderful story.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant novel, stumbling ending February 5, 2007
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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An odd coming of age tale September 5, 2003
By Megami
This is an odd story: Melanie and her siblings live a life of middle-class luxury until their parents die in a aeroplane accident in America. It quickly becomes apparent that their father had not thought of this possibility, so the house contents are sold up and the children sent to live with their mysterious Uncle Phillip in London.
So far, so not odd, we have all read a rich kid becomes poor through circumstance story. But this one is odd in that Uncle Phillip is a stern disciplinarian who resides over a poverty stricken household of his silent wife and her two brothers. Melanie cannot figure out why this woman has married her awful uncle, a malevolent puppet maker who cares more for his wooden creations than his family. The situation in the household slowly deteriorates, with the ill will seeming to grow as the days go by, until everything becomes undone in the violent climax.
Melanie is a character that it is hard to sympathise with, as though we are given insight into both her internal mental state and the awful things around her, I ended the book still not feeling a really knew her. Without giving away the plot, there seems to be a lot of inevitability that doesn't quite ring true. Or perhaps the author was attempting to underline how some people's life is swept on the currents of events they have no control over. Either way, I thought that the characters were interesting, I only wish that I could have understood their motivations a little better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not too much Magic!
This book is just frankly silly! I read it as part of some research for a project. I enjoyed 'Nights at the Circus' a lot more. Read more
Published 6 months ago by fionahill
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Graphic story to begin with. Entertaining.
Published 20 months ago by lovesshoes
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Book quality was great, in terms of binding and materials. I also really liked the book itself: it's highly engaging and intense. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Bailey
5.0 out of 5 stars A coming-of-age story with a surreal twist...
An Angela Carter book is akin to a dream, where the everyday and ordinary can seamlessly slide into the surreal and fantastical, and sometimes into the nightmarish. Read more
Published on October 19, 2013 by gammyraye
2.0 out of 5 stars I just could not get into this
I love Angela Carter's short stories that appear in the Bloody chamber and the Fall River Axe Murder (stunning) but this was so darn stacked with so much that I couldn't get into... Read more
Published on August 16, 2013 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars It Was Just OK
The writing in this book is beautiful but the story doesn't always work. The reader is in the head of a 15 year old girl most of the time. Read more
Published on August 7, 2013 by Renny
4.0 out of 5 stars Wit, parody, brilliance.
After I wrote a mock fairy tale a professor I had suggested I read Angela Carter. She felt that I would love the satire and female strength within her books. Read more
Published on June 28, 2013 by Crystal Lucero
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as some of her other writing
I heard a story by Angela Carter on the BBC about a female vampire. I loved it and with the reviews I expected this to be just as good. It left me flat and bored. Read more
Published on April 2, 2013 by dreaming of the sun
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
My Goodness! This ended too soon. My heart is beating so hard for Victoria, Jonathon, Aunt Margaret, Francie & even the dog. Read more
Published on March 29, 2013 by rainpebble
4.0 out of 5 stars Frightening and Beautiful
Angela Carter is one of my favorite authors. Her writing and use of language is truly astounding! Definitely highly recommended for fantasy lovers.
Published on December 17, 2012 by Brenna Hanley
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