The Magic Toyshop
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The Magic Toyshop

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  3,325 ratings  ·  253 reviews
One night Melanie walks through the garden in her mother's wedding dress. The next morning her world is shattered. Forced to leave the comfortable home of her childhood, she is sent to London to live with relatives she never met: Aunt Margaret, beautiful and speechless, and her brothers, Francie, whose graceful music belies his clumsy nature, and the volatile Finn, who kis...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Penguin Books (first published 1967)
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Lord
Normally, I walk into bookstores with a list. I didn’t, this time. I felt adventurous. The bookstore was enormous; there were rows and rows of shelves, winding so far it seemed endless. Shaking with delight at the sight of this, I had to ask a saleswoman what time they closed, as I was certain I would be there all day. And I had to set an alarm on my watch an hour before closing time so I’d not be rudely jerked out of my book-browsing stupor by the announcements and rush to the counter with an a...more
Hannah
Sep 08, 2008 Hannah rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone with an open mind and weird imagination!
'The Magic Toyshop' has so many exquisitely written layers, even though I only just closed its final page, I could easily pick it up and read it from beginning to end all over again and glean something new from its darkly spiralling plot.

This tale is wonderfully typical of Angela Carter and her taboo-breaking narratives. Sex, incest, feminism and a sinister magical realism are all weirdly intertwined. Fantastic imagery and symbolism are constant, transforming the story of the orphaned Melanie in...more
Nate D
Dec 11, 2012 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nate D by: Maya
The simple fairy-tale / literature-of-orphans-and-misfortune (and lots of overlap there) surface of this story seems to conceal a high level of thematic deftness and intricacy, seemingly built around a series of simulacra. And where will it all go?

...

Later: somewhere slightly else, maybe, but the complex underlyings are pretty fascinating. Identity and self, as external from the self, in objects and more importantly, in others. But constructed with a deftness and overriding narative coherency th...more
Leslie
Angela Carter’s prose is so decadent; it is ruffled (or stabbed!) with description and metaphor. I enjoy her balance of jeweled things and depravity. It feels wrong to give a book with such lovely writing 3 stars, but I had a terrible time getting through this book. The pacing of the Magic Toyshop was so slow after the first (intoxicating) third of the book. Perhaps this is because last 2/3rds are so concerned with captivity and spectatorship. This portion of the tale is set in the toyshop (and...more
Althea Ann
Having just finished Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber,' her retellings of traditional fairy tales, I thought I'd read something else by her in order to have a basis for comparison.
The Magic Toyshop is, firstly, much more horrific and disturbing than the cute cover of this edition would lead one to expect. It's full of over-the-top elements of gothic grotesquerie - I can almost imagine the author, while writing, gleefully exclaiming, "oh yes! I know what will make this Even Worse!!!" - but it's very...more
Leanna
What an odd little novel! Melanie, 15, is orphaned (along with her two younger siblings), and they are all sent to live with her uncle, his wife, and the wife's two brothers. Uncle Phillip is basically an ogre. He makes toys for a living, and every now and then puts on a private puppet show for his family. These puppets are his pride and joy, and he subjects his family to bizzare, short shows with these elaborately made creatures. He is a brute: violent, rude, and altogether domineering. His wif...more
Allycks
I've been uncomfortably prone (isn't that the name of a Pink Floyd classic?) to literature-related dreaming of late (no joke: I even had a David Foster Wallace-related dream the other night, which was simply too good to be true, and another one related to Amis' "Time's Arrow" which I remembered when subsequently catching a glimpse of an old Coldplay video... by the way... the cliché about other people's dreams being the most boring subject material in the world is way overused and over-rated, as...more
Allanah
This novel, for me, is perfection. It again merges the adolescent feelings of losing innocence and virginity with the adult concept of it. It all comes down to Melanie trying on her mothers wedding dress. Too big for her, like the idea of sex (in the country.) It's in the city. In the heart of London. After losing her parents and becoming a Flower, she is kissed, she gets intimate, she gets 'fucked.'
There is a looming Uncle who makes toys and puppets that have human qualities. He lives out his...more
Adela Cacovean
Melanie are cincisprezece ani, vârsta la care nu e nici copilă, nici adolescentă. De ea şi de fraţii ei, Jonathon şi Victoria, are grijă doamna Rundle, bona lor, împreună cu pisica ei. Părinţii lor muncesc în străinătate pentru ca aceştia să se bucure de toate luxurile vremii respective (nu e specificat în carte, însă bănuiesc că e vorba de anii ’60) de la săpunuri parfumate şi şampon până la simpla hârtie igienică. Într-o noapte în care nu poate dormi, Melanie intră în camera părinţilor ei şi î...more
Tess Avelland
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Belle Forcible
At night, in the garden, they faced each other in a wild surmise.
The last line. That's exactly how this book did me.

I wanted to cry. I didn't expect tragedy. It all seemed so fairy-taley that didn't promise a happily-ever-after ending, only leaving me a lump of surmise. I wanted to protest. But... But. I couldn't bring myself to dislike it.

The writing is exquisite. A subtle romance, with characters of precipitous imperfection, seized by the most critical circumstances. All of eccentricity... Bu...more
Elaine
There's only one thing better than a good book, and that's a good book that introduces you to a brand new author. Angela Carter may well just be my new obsession.

Carter's writing is at times, exquisite and at times, harrowing. This has all the elements of a fairy tale but goes much deeper than that. Sex, feminism and incest all get a look in. This book is both claustrophobic and liberating.

The ending is abrupt and a little jarring because of that. With hindsight though, what else was there lef...more
Sam
This story takes the traditional orphan coming of age tragedy and gives it a good shake up with a Gothic and seriously creepy twist. It follows Melanie and her younger siblings, Jonathon and Victoria, as they are sent to live with their Uncle Philip and Aunt Margaret after the loss of their parents. At first things seem fine, a little different but fine, but as time goes on the facade begins to slip and reality begins to creep in. The characters in this book are superb and Carter brings them to...more
Aaron Jansen
Oddly enough, I got a powerful Lemony Snicket vibe from this book, to the point where I would not consider "adult, condensed version of A Series of Unfortunate Events" to be a terribly inaccurate description. Of course this book was written before Daniel Handler was even born. I wonder if he was at all under its influence when dreaming up his series of children's novels.

Okay, the similarities are largely superficial, but they are noticeable. Three siblings (the eldest a girl in her teens, the mi...more
Inna
I don't know what made Angela Carter hate males so, but it's the second book (and the last) by this writer I've read, and it's ovious that she values women over men and on the whole is a real ballcrusher. She has a fixation on the motive of castration. Well, I understand that it takes all sorts to make the world, but I also think that there's enough strife between the sexes as it is, and it's unwise parading the goodness of ones against the badness of the others. It's the pot calling the kettle...more
Beth
I was prompted to read this after noticing Angela Carter being mentioned by several book bloggers, all claiming to love her books. "Ooh!," I thought, "I've never heard of her...must try!" The story was unique and the writing incredibly descriptive. The characters were well-defined by their traits and an element of mystery or suspense always loomed in the background. I just may read another one of Angela Carter's titles (there are many to choose from by the way).

Favorite Quotes:
"Her skin prickled...more
Paul
Let me say up front that I'm an apologist for genre fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. I get excited when a writer merges genre seamlessly with literature, because I don't think it happens very often.

Angela Carter's dark fantasy achieves this feat with the coming of age of the rich, spoiled twelve-year-old Melanie, who is orphaned early in the novel and sent to live with her cruel, working-class uncle. Despite the cliched setup, her story is startling and evocative from there, even...more
Jesse
I am a big fan of Angela Carter.

I first read her short stories, The Bloody Tower, in college for a class on Gothic/Horror Literature. And had been wanting to read it since I saw it on a book list for a different literature class by the same professor.

Carter does an excellent job in some ways reinventing Gothic Literature. Making it contemporary (for the time it was written), using many stylings of traditional Gothic literature, and mixing it up. Like Bronte did for Jane Eyre, it takes a change i...more
Marleen
This book has such a cute cover and such an innocent and magical title that I was expecting a fairy-tale between the covers. Since this is a book for grown-ups I didn't think it was all going to be lovely and happy ever after, but I definitely wasn't ready for the rather horrific tale I encountered.

Melanie is 15 when her world shatters. Both her parents die in an airplane accident and she and her younger brother and sister have to go and live with their uncle, his wife and her two younger brothe...more
A.K. Turner
I absolutely loved this book. It's different, dark, intriguing. At no point during the novel did I know what was going to happen next. But I also never felt disappointed or cheated by what happened, as if everything could occur by virtue of what Carter had introduced thus far in the story. For me this was a book about experiencing both terror and strength while coming of age. I love Carter's writing. It is not easy and demands that you pay attention. Not all questions are answered, but scenes ar...more
Starfish
" 'I hope you are settling down and the cat is well.'
This was a lie. She did not hope the cat was well. She hoped it was dead. She was convinced the cat was basically evil, but it was Mrs Rundle's beloved if delinquent child and she had to ask after it."

Carter's writing is brilliant here -- the things that come out of Melanie's mouth are amazing. Very teenage girl, very self occupied but with none of the artificiality of say, Bella Swan. Melanie's real and painfully so -- and then the story itse...more
Angie
It was very awesome, there are some clues for the magic realism. I wanted to read this book so I would get introduced to Angela Carter's style.

The end in some way became a cliffhanger. She emphasized a lot Melanie. However, I liked the emphasize she put into the physical, emotional and sexual growing up. It's so funny how your thoughts are so ideal and romantical when you are in your inocent and naive years, and of course, how those differ a lot from the reality that you are going to face in th...more
Katya
It's weird, falling in love with an author's later work and then picking up something they wrote when they were still learning the ropes. "The Magic Toyshop" has a lot of Angela Carter's trademarks, and it is a very poignant story, but she doesn't nearly have the same control of her language as she does in later works.

Still... seeing that I can give one of my favourite authors three stars makes me hope.

Also, this is a book that originated YA as we know it. No shit.
Rainbow
This book made me realize how long it's been since I've read a book that was EXQUISITELY written.

Angela Carter (who sounds a like fascinating character, based on her Wikipedia page) is really a poet. But the poetry isn't self-indulgent; there's a story here, a really weird one. With scary puppets and orphans. I would call this a gothy coming-of-age story that, among other things, captures the flesh-and-blood insanity of puberty. Also, it's very short.
Rat de bibliothèque
I had heard GREAT things about Angela Carter in the past. So I was happy to finally have one of her books. The plan was to sit and enjoy a day of reading this particular book.

It took an hour to read half of the first chapter.

Usually I hate to walk away from a book but reading should be a thing of enjoyment - not torturous labor.

I had to put it down without finishing, look at the back, and wonder what made me pick this up.
Laura Cowan
The style of this book is mesmerizing, and the scenery magical, but I kept waiting for a supernatural element to enter the book, and it was all just filth and misery. Heartfelt, but still misery. Like a road accident: hard to look away. I hate to say such a thing about such a wonderfully written story, but it's really horrific in its content and never lets up... but that style keeps you reading.
Beth
Intense, dark novel about suddenly orphaned children thrust into an emotionally dysfunctional family that endures daily violence from the patriarch. The writing is beautiful even though the story is not. The ending is more horrible than I expected. Ultimately the writing still won me over, and I felt Carter was trying to make important, complex points about class, gender, and violence.
Francesca Tagliaferri
Excellent book with lovely characters, apart from the uncle. Worth reading it.
Steve
Bugs me a little to see Angela Carter constantly lumped in with genre fantasy writers and all manner of tripe. This cold domestic scenario filtered through fairy tales, children's literature and Lewis Carroll nails attraction/repulsion ambivalence. I wont get specific here, but fans of amateurish genre stuff might get squeamish when this gets real.
Annise
As someone who really likes stories, I'm not generally so keen on novels that are just character pieces or mood dramas. The Magic Toyshop is sort of both. It's beautifully written, with some superb imagery throughout, and the melancholy tone is consistent and effective. However, I didn't particularly warm to the main character, Melanie, and while I sympathised with her plight, I didn't care deeply about it or her in the way I'd need for me to regard this above other novels of its kind. Aside fro...more
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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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