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Wise Children

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  5,524 Ratings  ·  437 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

Hardcover, 234 pages
Published September 1st 1991 by Little Brown and Company (first published 1991)
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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
May 05, 2013 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
Jan 27, 2014 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
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il giorno del loro settantacinquesimo compleanno le gemelle Nora e Dora ricevono per la prima volta l'invito alla festa del centesimo compleanno di Melchior Hazard,famoso attore Shakespiriano nonché padre delle ragazze. La famiglia Hazard infatti sforna attori di fama mondiale da generazioni ma qualcosa sembra essere andato storto con le sue gemelle, figlie mai riconosciute dal padre, ballerine e attrici di seconda categoria.
Con una prosa irriverente e anticonvezionale Angela Carter ci racconta
Read to fill the “Magical Realism” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

The large cast of off-beat characters in this book reminded me strongly of Canadian author, Robertson Davies. And all of the links back to Melchior Hazard, Shakespearean actor, made me think of Station Eleven! But Carter definitely makes this tale all her own, despite the echoes with other authors.

Like the Shakespeare that permeates the novel, there are lots of twins, sudden changes in fortune, costumes, and a lot of uncer
Apr 28, 2009 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
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
Nancy Oakes
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, uk-fiction
The more I thought about this book after reading it, the more I realized that four stars just isn't enough to express how much I enjoyed it. Wise Children is a lovely book in which there is never a dull moment, and I do mean never. It is funny, audacious, bawdy, and often flat-out farcical crazy, and I loved every second of it. Why is that, you might want to ask, and my answer is that above all, it is just teeming with life.

The novel begins at 49 Bard Road, Brixton, London, South West Two. It's
Muito divertido, emocionante, original são alguns adjectivos que me ocorrem para classificar este livro, de que fiquei com pena quando terminou e com muitas saudades das personagens.
A narradora é uma velhota, com mais de setenta anos, que conta a sua vida e da sua família - de muitos gémeos (quatro pares mais um de presente) - que trabalha no mundo do espectáculo (teatro e dança). Trocas de paternidade (e de namorados); alguns incestos (leves); infidelidades e mais uma catadupa de loucuras, prop
“Figlie sagge” è un'esperienza straordinaria e disorientante, una lettura che prende il lettore e se lo trascina dietro come un pupazzo passivo e inerte, lo strattona e lo fa girare in cerchio solo per disorientarlo e farlo cadere a terra, ad osservare l'universo da una prospettiva distorta, sporca ed estremamente vivida. Credo che lo spirito giusto per affrontare questo romanzo sia quello della più completa apertura e disponibilità nel lasciarsi tra
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
My experience reading Angela Carter has been mixed, but to be honest, it's not her, it's me. I read two of her novels deep in the middle of a hyper-anxious era that rattled me so badly that I barely remember anything I read that whole year (I promise you, "Magic Toyshop", I will come back!) and I'm afraid it has tainted my enthusiam for her other books. I have to thank Cecily for writing an enthusiatic review of "Wise Children" that got me dusting off the used copy that had been patiently waitin ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-read
I probably spent the longest time reading this book compared to all the other books I read due to the complexity and complicatedness of its plot and the unsettlingly eccentric cast of characters. What an experience! A clever book deploying magical realism and saturated with parodies that left me feeling accomplished and simultaneously dizzy upon reading it. I despised it so much but I loved it just as much, which was why I had to finish reading it.
Jan 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Megan Baxter
Nov 09, 2015 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
Mariaelena Di Gennaro
"Buongiorno! Lasciate che mi presenti. Mi chiamo Dora Chance. Benvenuti nel lato sbagliato della città. In altre parole: se venite dagli States, pensate a Manhattan, poi a Brooklyn. Mi spiego? Per un parigino è probabilmente una questione di rive gauche e di rive droite. Ma a Londra si tratta della barriera nord-sud. Io e Nora, mia sorella, siamo sempre vissute sulla sponda sinistra, quella che i turisti di solito non vedono, la sponda bastarda del Vecchio Padre Tamigi."

Ecco, a me è bastato que
Jul 06, 2012 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.
Descending Angel
Oct 05, 2016 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.
Fabia Consorti
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Allegro, frizzante, divertente, ma per niente frivolo o scontato. Leggerò sicuramente ancora questa autrice!
Oct 31, 2007 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.
Jan 21, 2011 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
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lunchers
Angela Carter's name came off the magical realism list, however this book does not seem to fall into that genre. As it was not what I expected, the pleasant surprise I felt for the story was a nice bonus.

The book chronicles the life of un-parented twin sister starlettes from London in the 40's and 50's as reminisced from the present day. The girls' mother died in childbirth and their father, a famous Shakespearean actor turned cabaret and eventually media star, never acknowledges his children as
Jan 13, 2011 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
Dec 18, 2011 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
Oct 10, 2008 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
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
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
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
Mar 15, 2012 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 07, 2011 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.
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What did Melchior really want? 2 26 Jun 14, 2013 02:25AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: April {2012} Discussion -- WISE CHILDREN by Angela Carter 17 124 Jun 26, 2012 02:52AM  
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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...
“Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been” 76 likes
“There was a house we all had in common and it was called the past, even though we'd lived in different rooms.” 64 likes
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