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 story as she can: twins, a young woman drowned for love, a jealous husband who murders his wife, thankless daughters, questionable paternity, characters dressing up like each other, etc. This is never clunky, but seems a living, organic part of her loud, colorful and carnival-esque tale. And, eventually, one remembers with a surprise that streak of magical realism hidden up her sleeve. This is a masterful work – light and frivolous in tone, but is superbly worded and has playfully sharp dialogue. And, like a magic tent, it’s bigger on the inside that it seems on the outside.