Wise Children
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Wise Children

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  3,063 ratings  ·  255 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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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...more

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...more
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
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...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...more
Ey-Op, Sunny Jim, this story's a merry jape!
Top us up our gin. 'S All a laugh, innit?

And ruddy infectious for the gravelly Lundun accent of its female narrator, as she looks back on her Vaudeville life with her twin sister on their seventy-fifth birthday.
Or 'hoofers' as she calls what they were; dancers treading the boards.

As far as Carter stories go, this one is decidedly more earthy in tone, none of that elusive surrealism that laces her writing normally.
It's really lovely, actually, all grea...more
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.
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...more
‘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...more
I read my first Angela Carter novel last year, The Magic Toyshop, reviewed here http://www.lovelytreez.com/?p=50 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...more
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
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...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.
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...more
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
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
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
What a joy it is to dance and sing! is the refrain throughout this big, fat, ballsy belly laugh of a novel. A tribute to Shakespeare, family, and the ‘wrong-sidedness’ of life in its many and marvellous manifestations. Carter doesn’t just deal with taboo, she embraces it, revels in it, makes a spectacle of it. The novel is packed full of literary and pop culture allusions, which are always fun (feeling like you’re in on one big joke.) A wonderful little peek into Carter’s mind.
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.
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...more
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...more
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
Mar 19, 2014 Sophie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not everyone
Recommended to Sophie by: school
I had to read this book as part of my English Literature AS Level and I kept it after. I have since read it a few times and every time I read it again I understand and enjoy it more. It is a complicated book in parts with lots of sets of twins and intertwining family members which gets confusing and hard to keep track of who is who. The main characters are Dora and Nora Chance, twins who dream of being singing and dancing on the stage and how their lives are affected by their illegitimate father...more
Shravani Askani
I've never read some thing like this before...A drama plot...carter lets you fall in love with Nora & Dora....that's how beautiful this piece is...apparently her Best and last book is my first book of her....and loved it so much....
Katie Grainger
I think the humor of Wise Children was a little bit lost on me. The book tells the story of the Chance twins and there incredibly complicated family (basically everyone is related to someone, or slept with someone they shouldn't and had children with them)on the birthday of the patriarch of the family, who by chance is their father but not recognized. Exhausted yet!

I found the whole thing slightly tedious to be honest, the narrator got on my nerves, it was really hard to follow and frankly a lit...more
Jayne Charles
This is a tale of showbiz and ambiguous paternity was interesting for a few chapters but gradually lost me in a tangle of complicated family relationships and discarded tights. It did convey a strong sense of nostalgia for the high-kicking Dutch cap-wearing luvvie luvvie days of the characters’ youth, and though I wasn’t around in the first half of the last century it brought that time to life in an admirable way. I did lose the plot during the Hollywood section, however, and never completely go...more
Donna Jo Atwood
Funny story of an English acting dynasty that gives a whole new meaning to yours, mine, and ours. The narrator, a more-than-slightly batty 70 year old former music hall performer has a ready comeback for almost every situation--and she's not afraid to voice it.
While Hamlet and King Lear are often evoked by the characters in this book, the first Shakespearean work it brought to my mind was Comedy of Errors. Luckily, there is a cast of characters in the back of the book, what with all the twins, m...more
Cheryl Marren
this was hilarious and touching at the same time. A really good read. I enjoyed it very much!
Fascinating, witty novel - incredibly engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable, as promised!
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What did Melchior really want? 2 20 Jun 14, 2013 02:25AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: April {2012} Discussion -- WISE CHILDREN by Angela Carter 17 112 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...more
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The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories Nights at the Circus The Magic Toyshop Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories

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“Hope for the best, expect the worst.” 40 likes
“Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been” 33 likes
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