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Wise Children

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  4,720 Ratings  ·  366 Reviews
In their heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early twentieth century, Dora Chance and her twin sister, Nora—unacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day—were known as the Lucky Chances, with private lives as colorful and erratic as their careers. But now, at age 75, Dora is typing up their life story, and it is a tale inde ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published December 10th 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1991)
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Modern Gothic
246th out of 368 books — 1,069 voters

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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.
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
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
Mar 22, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jan 09, 2010 Christy rated it really liked it
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
Dec 17, 2012 J.I. added it
Shelves: read-2010
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Lisa James
Aug 01, 2012 Lisa James rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
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
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.
Jun 05, 2015 Alistair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sadly this was Angela Carter's last novel; luckily for us she left the best 'til last. Twins Dora and Nora Chance come from the wrong side of the tracks as well as the blanket. They pursue, from an extremely early age,a life on the boards as chorus girls known as the Lucky Chances. As narrator,Dora takes us for a ride through twentieth century show business, both the 'legitimate' theatre and the not quite so legit. And hang on to your hats for what a ride it is! I would defy anyone not to be sed ...more
Megan Baxter
Dec 14, 2015 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I trust my sister's choice in books, but I was a little startled when I picked up this book that it was about the theatre. I don't know why that should startle me, except that I scarred her once by exposing her to a bunch of actors, and she's seemed a little leery since. At the remove of fiction, though, this was apparently right up her alley, and I'm pleased to say that it was exactly to my taste as well.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and
Spassoso e brillante, mi ci voleva proprio.

È una soap travestita da alto teatro? È una pantomima messa in forma di romanzo? Per quanto la famiglia (o la non-famiglia) delle due protagoniste sia un totale casino, e per quanto sia incredibile, anche solo per il numero di gemelli sfornati in serie senza mancare neanche un passaggio, questo passa in secondo piano nella prosa di Angela Carter, che svela una matassa ingarbugliatissima. Anzi, è quasi un punto di forza perché, per quanto abbia dei passa
Postcards from far away
Famiglie complicate.

Questo romanzo non mi ha preso quanto speravo.
Ho letto recensioni più che positive, la trama mi ha dato un che di fresco, nuovo e diverso e, infine, mettiamoci dentro anche la casa editrice Fazi: sono innamorata del loro catalogo e sono sempre aggiornata sulle loro ultime uscite. Così, ho conosciuto Angela Carter e il suo ultimo romanzo, nonché quello che ha riscosso più successo.
In breve, la trama del romanzo è costituita dalla famiglia Hazard; quattro generazioni di att
Descending Angel
Oct 05, 2016 Descending Angel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: carter
Took awhile to get into the writing style which was expectedand then it just clicked and flowed beautifully. Alot of it is kinda a flashback/history of the Chance twins and it's interesting, it's funny and there's alot of casual incest and illegitimacy of children. The story is probably it's weakest part but it does enough. The characters and the classic Carter banter is really what makes this (her last novel) so good.
Oct 21, 2016 Diletta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una brillante e frenetica parata di delusioni e perversioni. Angela Carter ha una capacità narrativa che mi ha fatto divorare il romanzo, lasciandomi trasportare e abbandonare in una realtà fatta di tragedie shakesperiane.
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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 17 120 Jun 26, 2012 02:52AM  
  • Sybil, or the Two Nations
  • The Bottle Factory Outing
  • Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
  • Frost in May
  • The Black Sheep
  • Nightmare Abbey
  • The Three Sisters
  • The Rector's Daughter
  • The Chateau
  • A Legacy
  • Malone Dies
  • Invitation to the Waltz
  • The Sound of My Voice
  • Manservant and Maidservant
  • The Shrimp and the Anemone
  • The Ordeal of Richard Feverel
  • The Millstone
  • Sour Sweet
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” 65 likes
“There was a house we all had in common and it was called the past, even though we'd lived in different rooms.” 54 likes
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