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Wise Children

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,639 ratings  ·  289 reviews
Librarian Note: Alternate cover edition for ISBN 0099981106.

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.
Paperback, 234 pages
Published 1992 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

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Ian Heidin-Seek
Ms. Flirtworthy, I Presume

At just under 240 pages, this isn't a long or difficult book, but it is hugely enjoyable and rewarding at multiple levels.

At one level, you can read it as a first person narration of a 75 year old woman (Dora Chance) that is hilarious, vulgar, witty and dynamic.

It's like sitting Mae West in front of a microphone and plying her with alcohol. The stories, street wisdom, wise-cracking, jokes and double entendres just pour out of her endlessly.

I've met this kind of woman be
This is a gloriously ribald carnivalesque adventure, with deeper themes.

It is the life story of identical twin musical hall performers, Dora and (Leo)Nora and their complex family, as remembered by Dora on their 75th birthday. Dora is a wonderful raconteur, though hardly a reliable narrator. She's more of a chatty old biddy, rambling away, enthusiastically, and suddenly remembering little asides. She would be great fun to meet, and I really felt I did.

There are many twins in the story: contrast

Extract from the introductory note:

... cheerfully bawdy, it's Carter's most glorious, most comic, most fulfilled, certainly her most generously and happily orgiastic, fictional performance. By chance it is also her last novel.

A fitting swan song for the master enchanter, conjuring wonders out of her magic pen for the last time, guiding me again by the light of a Paper Moon into world of entertainment. After joining the circus in the company of a winged trapeze artist in Nights at the Circus, i
Dora tells the story of her and her twin, Nora, unrecognized illegitimate daughters of the great Shakespearean actor, Melchior Hazard, from their birth at the beginning of the century, to Melchior’s hundredth birthday party, a narrative that progresses chronologically, but with jags and with hints and clues which remind us that we are dealing with that tricky stuff, living memory.

Apart from referring to Shakespeare and his plays, Carter cleverly adds as much Shakespearean twists into her own sto
Nandakishore Varma
I love Angela Carter's prose: the sentences dance together, perfectly matched, creating a sinuous harmony of prose that's almost poetry. Wise Children is no different. In telling the story of the Misses Dora and Leonora Chance, the "Chance Sisters" whose rhythmically clicking heels have lighted up many a music hall stage, Ms. Carter has not spared any expense, choosing to spread the paint in loud, garish brushstrokes. For are they not the twin daughters (albeit born on the other side of the blan ...more
Oh, why did it take me so long to read this? Books like this one, sitting on my shelves gathering dust because I once thought they sounded interesting enough to buy, but then never got around to reading them, are exactly why I am undertaking this project and reading the books that I have instead of buying anything new.

I loved this book a lot, obviously. It’s the kind of book I want to read again for fun, but it also makes me want to go back to school, to read or reread all of Shakespeare (I am l
Fantastic wild, funny, clever, bawdy writing. Angela Carter knows and loves Shakespeare and uses him to examine people and their plotting as well as the Bard does. One of my very favorite books of all time.
Oh, icky, icky, icky. I literally fell asleep trying to read this. I cannot think of a more uninspiring narrator; she even made an anecdote about jism boring. The characters drink gin, dress up like old-timey movie stars, and have a scandalous story to tell about their births (twins). All of that adds up to a nap. How can one ever possibly make gin uninteresting, you ask? I'm not sure because I drank enough of it reading this crap to forget it all. But I trust my prior assessment.
Nov 29, 2008 Ciara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: theatre geeks, twins, redheads, vaudevillians, brassy old women
i think this book is brilliant! it's no secret that i love angela carter, as a general rule. she's such a great writer. she has this incredibly rich, verbose style, but it strikes the perfect note every time. it doesn't sound over-worked or clunky. this is the story of two twins born to a poor woman in a boardinghouse. they are the illegitmate children of england's greatest shakespearean actor, a wealthy man who is married & has children from that marriage, who live in the lap of luxury. the ...more
I read my first Angela Carter novel last year, The Magic Toyshop, reviewed here and it was such an enjoyable reading experience I fully intended to read Wise Children soon afterwards...well, better late than never and what a wondrous ride it was.

Wise Children is narrated by Dora Chance, twin sister to Nora and illegitimate daughter of Melchior Hazard, the renowned Shakespearean actor. It's the twins' 75th birthday and Dora takes this opportunity to recount the dr
Dora Chance and her twin sister Nora are the unacknowledged illegitimate daughters of a great Shakespearean actor. Singing and dancing their way through life on the stage and off, they live in a showbiz world full of exuberance and duality where nothing is what it seems - especially family. In this book it really is “a wise child that knows its own father”.

I thought of Angela Carter as a difficult writer but this is a very easy book to read. The story carries you along as if you are watching the
The first book I ever read by Angela Carter was The Bloody Chamber, which I read because Ellen Datlow &Terri Windling listed it as one of the most read fairy tale based books. (As an aside, I discovered a great many writers and books much sooner than I would've thanks to D&W. Thanks ladies, from the bottom of my heart).

While I love Chamber in particular the title story, I now think that my favorite Carter work is this book.

What really makes this book is the narrator Dora Chance. A crust
Wise Children is so brilliant it made me giddy. I could easily go all fan girl, the writing, oh divine, the Shakespeare references, the theatrics - Carter knew how to build a scene till it reaches a divine surreal hysteria, the characters a 75 year old woman who still wears high heals and a low cut light leopard print top has my respect.

But what this book reminded me of is a elderly woman who I use to take, I think it was Classical Lit with in uni. She had to be in her 70's a typical kiwi grann
‘Hope for the best, expect the worst’.

This is the motto of Grandma Chance, the cheery Cockney who has brought up her two grand-daughters, Nora and our narrator Dora Chance (known professionally as the Lucky Chances, former stars of music hall, stage and as we learn at one time, on the silver screen).

Her words crop up throughout Dora’s story and prove wise advice to her two much loved girls. As the story unfolds the ‘girls’ are now 75 and are about to attend the 100th birthday party of their fath
It pains me to say this but as much as I love Angela Carter and her style of writing I just couldn't get into this book at all. I don't know whether it was the characters or the story itself but I just didn't connect with it on any level. The book is narrated by Dora Chance one half of a dancing double act from their humble beginnings to their humble ends and everything in between. It tells of their time on the stage, off the stage and behind the stage and of all the complexities of the extensiv ...more
Wickedly raucous and bawdy, this was such a fun change of pace to read. The "Last Chances", twins Dora and Nora Chance and the story of their vaudeville career as dancers is written in perfect slapstick style and theme. Comic-farce with a touch of magical theatrics makes the whole story of their family lineage a plus.
Thom Masters
There is way too much to this book to cover in one little review; there are so many different reactions you can have to this book when you read it. When I first read it, I just felt at home with Dora, the narrator, (though I made the wise choice of skimming through the first 20 or so pages, which is basically a massive run down of the family history, and far easier to understand once you've got through the novel once). Dora talks to you like a good friend, like you're sitting with her in Grandma ...more
What happens to twin girls raised outside of the Oedipal paradigm by a mother that is not biologically related to them, a father figure that is not their father (nor romantically linked to the mother figure), a father famous for his Shakespearean roles who has completely denied his role as father and a career in the theatre in the aftermath of WWII England? This book, that's what. Carter is a brilliant writer and the book is written with verve and vigor and one can plow through it in no time at ...more
Lisa James
Where do I start? This book is irreverent, humorous, tongue in cheek, witty, sarcastic, definitely NOT politically correct, & can be a bit confusing. It has more plot twists & turns than two snakes tied in a knot. The narrator is Dora Chance, one of a set of identical twins born "on the wrong side of the tracks", the product of an all but nameless showgirl & a successful stage star, who is himself a twin. The family intrigues will leave you a little sad, but not for long, as the whol ...more
Wise Children is so brilliant it made me giddy. I could easily go all fan girl, the writing, oh divine, the Shakespeare references, the theatrics - Carter knew how to build a scene till it reaches a divine surreal hysteria, the characters a 75 year old woman who still wears high heals and a low cut light leopard print top has my respect.

But what this book reminded me of is a elderly woman who I use to take, I think it was Classical Lit with in uni. She had to be in her 70's a typical kiwi grann
Jacquelynn Luben
Wise Children is a riotous story which describes the lives of the Chances - Nora and Dora and their adopted Grandma - and the Hazards, an acting dynasty with an illegitimate connection to the Chance twins. The story is written in the first person, by Dora, who is remarkably erudite for someone who is not exactly top drawer, but that’s probably due to her association with ‘Irish’, an American writer, who has introduced her to literary classics - in alphabetical order.

The book documents a history
this was a good book, full of fun, scandal, and great characters.
I dont know why I dont rate it higher than a three then.

there was a lot of confusion about who was realted to who, by who etc etc, which would have been a lot clearer had I read the characters thing at the back of the book to begin with.

I like the narrator, and the way everything was told matter of factly, and names were dropped, and nothing thought of it.

A fun book, but not super keen to read Carter again.
Darran Mclaughlin
Couldn't finish this one. I made it 75 pages through and decided I just wasn't enjoying it enough to keep going, which is a disappointment because I've read and enjoyed a few Angela Carter books. The tone of forced hilarity and bawdiness put me off. Neither the plot, nor the humour, nor the prose, nor the characters could keep me reading. I thought it might be quite an interesting look at South London (where I live), in the spirit of Michael Moorcock, Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd or JG Ballard, ...more
Angela Carter's last novel before her untimely demise, this mainly comical book tracks the lives of twin sisters, born 1915 or so, the illegitimate ("natural" as they like to say) daughters of a distinguished (though of course quite self-involved) Shakespearean actor. Being of the left-hand themselves, they pursue a career as dancers in the early 20th century British musical hall rather than the "legit" theater.
The twins are Dora and Nora, and Dora narrates the book in a fluid vernacular with p
At once glitteringly vibrant and contemplative, sincere and wry, Carter's 'Wise Children' is a beast with two heads. Populated by an array of colourful characters, most of whom are theatrical and some of who are twins, it is an exceedingly busy novel with a strange, complex family tree at its centre-stage. Dora is the novel's quick-witted and world-wise heroine. She tells the story from the dusty alcoves of her old age - the rattle of her typewriter imitating the tap-tap-tap of the dancing shoes ...more
There are many things I love about Angela Carter. Among them: her erudition, her admiration for Shakespeare, her bawdiness, her sense of humour, her irreverence, her awareness of class and gender issues, her embracing of ugliness. All of these things, and more, make her one of my favourite authors.
In Wise Children specifically, I like that the focus is unapologetically on women, and specifically women who are poor and old and therefore considered unattractive or undesirable. I like the many, man
Secretly, I want to BE Dora Chance, the narrator of this story—singer, dancer, twin (to Nora, together "The Lucky Chances"), illegitimate and unacknowledged daughter of a Shakespearian legend Sir Melchior Hazard, one time "it" girl (along with Nora), a string of affairs to her name...but, as she often points out, her life was no picnic either—there was a lot of hard work involved, plus heartbreak and a fair bit of poverty. But gosh it sounded FUN.

Dora tells us the life story of the Lucky Chances
Daisy Edwards
I really enjoyed reading this book, the story telling format of having it told from Dora's point of view as an older woman looking back on her time in the theatre works really well. Plus she's very funny, so that made some difficult subjects easy.

Although the characters were great and quite realistic I didn't really like many of them, the twins Uncle and Grandma were lovely but a fair few really annoyed me, which was probably intentional.

The one issue I had with this book was that the author di
This was a book club choice and my introduction to Angela Carter. It was a bit of a struggle to get through it, but looking back there were parts I really enjoyed (more so than when I was actually reading it - maybe it is because other book club members gave a different perspective to make me rethink the story). Some of the descriptions were written so well it was easy to visualise the scenes, although other events seemed too contrived for easy reading. Unusually, I think it would make a better ...more
I love this book so much I cannot do it justice.
Correction - it's bigger than that.
I fell in love utterly with Angela Carter herself. I worship her. She is a goddess.
I felt the same way about Boris Vian. I will not critique the book - I feel I met a soulmate. I want to be reincarnated into her some day.
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What did Melchior really want? 2 23 Jun 14, 2013 02:25AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: April {2012} Discussion -- WISE CHILDREN by Angela Carter 17 114 Jun 26, 2012 02:52AM  
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From Wikipedia: Born Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne, in 1940, Carter was evacuated as a child to live in Yorkshire with her maternal grandmother. As a teenager she battled anorexia. She began work as a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, following in the footsteps of her father. Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature.

She married twice, first in 1960 to
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“Hope for the best, expect the worst.” 44 likes
“Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been” 41 likes
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