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Wise Children

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  3,962 ratings  ·  310 reviews

In their heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early twentieth century, Dora Chance and her twin sister, Noraunacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his daywere 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 indeed

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Hardcover, 234 pages
Published September 1st 1991 by Little Brown and Company (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ian Klappenskoff
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
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Cecily
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
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Algernon

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
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Christy
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
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Elizabeth
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
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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
Hilary
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.
L
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.
Ciara
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
Teresa
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
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Rosemary
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
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Chris
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
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Lindz
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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Angie
‘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
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Sam
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
Mary
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.
Liz
Weird, with a lot of incest. I think I need an English professor to explain this to me.
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
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
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Heidi
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
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Becky
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason
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
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
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Laura
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
TooManyBooks
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
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
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Louise
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
Bob
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
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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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More about Angela Carter...
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories Nights at the Circus The Magic Toyshop Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales The Passion of New Eve

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“Hope for the best, expect the worst.” 48 likes
“Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been” 46 likes
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