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Wise Children
Angela Carter
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Wise Children

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,410 Ratings  ·  344 Reviews
Wise Children follows the fortunes of the Chance twins, Dora and Nora, taking in the story of their show business family -- the Hazards -- over the past century. Born illegitimately, spurned by their father Melchior and brought up by their landlady, Mrs Chance, Dora and Nora learn to dance, and begin to forge a career, “two girls pounding the boards”. After the post-war de ...more
Hardcover, 234 pages
Published June 13th 1991 by Chatto & Windus (first published 1991)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ian GalaDali
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
Apr 12, 2014 Cecily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2014 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014

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
May 13, 2009 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 09, 2010 Christy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2012 L rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 03, 2007 Hilary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Nov 29, 2008 Ciara rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 31, 2011 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2012 Rosemary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
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
Dec 15, 2012 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Weird, with a lot of incest. I think I need an English professor to explain this to me.
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
Jan 07, 2012 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘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
Jul 10, 2012 Sam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Suzanne Moore
You will need a family tree diagram to keep Dora and Nora's relatives straight when following this story. As you may have guessed by their names, Dora and Nora are twins. In fact one set in a family of several (including triplets). Dora tells of past exploits with her sister, as they begin to celebrate their 75th birthday. It is also the 100th birthday of her father. These sassy ladies grew up as child stars, into adult years, in and on the stage. They were products of an affair, raised by "chan ...more
Thom Masters
Jun 06, 2010 Thom Masters rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
This is a story about a few generations of a theatrical family, containing numerous sets of twins. Keeping track of all the characters was a bit of a nightmare!

This was a very disappointing read. It started off nowhere, meandered along backwards and forwards, and ended up back where it started: nowhere. This book was meant to be funny and satirical, and it tried very hard, but in my opinion tried a little too hard, and just ended up being tired and pathetic. Some of the characters provoked a sm
Aug 10, 2014 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Christian Schwoerke
This witty, erudite, bawdy, and vulgar tribute to the works of Shakespeare is a five-act comic celebration of life lived large, without apology. Nora Chance—one of a pair of identical twins—is the 75-year-old narrator of this story, which recounts the long, three-generation life of Melchior Hazard, the great Shakespearian who sired gauche twins Nora and Dora (whom he never acknowledges) and whose legitimate identical twins (Saskia and Imogen) were sired by his twin brother Peregrine.

To keep all
Rebeca F. San Román
This book -takes a deep breath- Ah! This book was hard, at the beginning. I've noticed this happens to me with most of Carter's books, except "The infernal desire machines...", "Love" and "The magic toyshop": As soon as I start reading, they push me away and I have to struggle with them, but just a bit after that, they take a hold on me so strongly that it's scary and I fall in love insanely.
With this book it was even harder than usual, for two good reasons:
First, I stopped reading while I was
Jan 27, 2016 martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very simply put, I enjoyed every minute of this irreverent and often fantastical "memoir" of one of a pair of fading but feisty 75 year old twin ex-cabaret dancers, born on the wrong side of the sheets into a famous theatrical family. There's a lot to laugh about, some a little on the crude side of "ribald" perhaps, but always with a nicely human touch to it.

The family links to Shakespeare and especially King Lear are a central theme for both structure and for affectionate ridicule and there ar
Pamela Scott
I thought Wise Children was a great. I’ve read a few of Carter’s novels and all of her short fiction and am generally a fan. She’s on my list of ‘must read’ authors. Wise Children is her final novel. Carter died a year after it was published.

Wise Children is split into five chapters. The chapters are quite long and generally more than 50 pages. Each chapter is a mix of current events with the ageing Chance sisters attending the funeral of the man they have been told is their natural father and f
May 29, 2015 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parossistico, teatrale. Pieno di vite fatte di vita. Quando l'identita' non ha senso, o forse e' piena di senso. Quando il sangue non importa o quando l'albero genealogico diventa cosi' estremo da perdere significato. O cosi' estremo da riempirsi di significato. E mi interrogo sul senso di famiglia, sui ricordi in monocromo e sulle mille solitudini. Quelle solitudini fatte di segreti da cui neanche i gemelli sono risparmiati. Quella gioia parossistica di danzare e cantare. Che non cela la triste ...more
Feb 16, 2015 TooManyBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: family, favourites
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
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What did Melchior really want? 2 25 Jun 14, 2013 02:25AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: April {2012} Discussion -- WISE CHILDREN by Angela Carter 17 119 Jun 26, 2012 02:52AM  
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  • The Black Sheep
  • The Bottle Factory Outing
  • Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
  • Nightmare Abbey
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • A Legacy
  • The Chateau
  • The Sound of My Voice
  • Malone Dies
  • Manservant and Maidservant
  • The Shrimp and the Anemone
  • Sour Sweet
  • Invitation to the Waltz
  • The House of Doctor Dee
  • Lanark
  • The Rector's Daughter
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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 Paul Carter. Th
More about Angela Carter...

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“Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been” 60 likes
“Hope for the best, expect the worst.” 50 likes
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