Ciara's Reviews > Wise Children

Wise Children by Angela Carter
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Nov 29, 08

bookshelves: read-in-2006, especially-great-novels, feminist-y-books
Recommended for: theatre geeks, twins, redheads, vaudevillians, brassy old women
Read in November, 2006, read count: thrice

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. these girls, however, are brought up by the boardinghouse matron, who sends them to dance classes & encourages them in a life on the stage. the girls go on vaudeville & work their way up. although their father doesn't publicly acknowledge that they're his kids, they are invited to some family functions & their uncle dotes on them & is always bringing them presents from his various world travels. ah, i'm not explaining this well. the upshot is that the whole book is a take off of some actual shakespeare play. the fact that i can't remember which one indicates that angela carter is a bit smarter than me. i mean, it's done well, it's very sophisticated--not at all gimmicky. the whole book takes place via flashbacks while the twins are getting ready to celebrate their father's hundredth birthday--they themselves are 75. there are a lot of twins, a lot of illegitimate births, a lot of people with the same birthdays, a lot of conspircous redheads, a lot of dish about english theatre. i think it's a very feminist book, in the way it addresses aging, beauty standards, sexuality in older women, etc, but when i made a bunch of anarcha-feminist-leaning 20-year-olds read it for a book club, it seemed like they didn't agree. they were very hung up on the fact that the characters wear make-up. they're STAGE ACTRESSES. of course they wear make-up. get off your high horse. man, 20-year-old anarcha-feminists are in for a rude awakening when they turn 70 or so. in sum, read this book & don't be an ideological stick in the mud.
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