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Wise Children

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  6,919 ratings  ·  580 reviews
Dora and Nora Chance are a famous song-and-dance team of the British music halls. Billed as The Lucky Chances, the sisters are the illegitimate and unacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day. At once ribald and sentimental, glittery and tender, this rambunctious family saga is Angela Carter at her bewitching best.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Penguin (first published June 13th 1991)
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Richard It looks like you'd have to order it from UK bookstore. For example, the Kindle version isn't listed at, but is for sale at …moreIt looks like you'd have to order it from UK bookstore. For example, the Kindle version isn't listed at, but is for sale at

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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  6,919 ratings  ·  580 reviews

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Well, sheeet (that's the way the British say the Americans say it). Back to the library. This has to be one of the most slowest moving vaguely interesting books I've ever read. Or not read. I'm on page 80 after about two weeks of intermittent baths. This is the written version of an oral history told by a seventy-five year-old bastard ex-chorus girl (usually on the left line) about her family and her famous actor father who wouldn't acknowledge her or her twin sister.

As far as I can tell, there
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
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:
Fun. Great fun.

I bought this book in a Fifteenth-century bookshop. That is what it had painted on the fascia. It did not specialise in books from the fifteenth-century, indeed it did not seem to have any fifteenth- century books, nor any about the fifteenth century. It certain had not been a bookshop since the fifteenth century either, though by the musty smell of old books it was doing it’s very best to give the impression of a bookshop that pre-dated printing.

Having bought it I did not read it
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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,
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 ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Perhaps there’s something ‘wrong’ with me, but if a book is billed as “comic” or especially “richly comic” as this one is on the back of the edition I own, odds are I’m not going to enjoy it as much as a novel that's dark, morbid, or even darkly or morbidly comic.

Before starting this, I’d started the second book—The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman— in the aforementioned volume and couldn’t get into that one at all; after only a few pages, I read Jan-Maat’s review and decided it
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
“What a joy it is to dance and sing!” Twins Nora and Dora Chance turn 75 today; their father, Shakespearean actor Melchior Hazard, who has never publicly acknowledged them because they were born out of wedlock to a servant girl who died in childbirth, turns 100. At the last minute an invitation to his birthday party arrives, and between this point and the party Dora fills us in on the sisters’ knotty family history. Their father is also a twin (though fraternal); his brother Peregrine was more ...more
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 ...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
Abbie | ab_reads
3.5 stars

Wise Children was one of those weird books where, when I was reading it I was enjoying it, but when I wasn’t, I didn’t really feel like picking it up. There’s such a huge cast of characters that it was quite hard to keep track of who’s who and what relationships they have, and once when I checked the character list at the back, it spoiled a plot twist for me! A bit annoying.
But as I say, I did enjoy it when I got into the flow of it! The narrator is one of many sets of twins in this
There is something wonderful about an Angela Carter novel. A certain charm. A feeling of a warm blanket that you pull over yourself and then the cat jumps on it and sticks her claws into your leg.

That sort of feeling.

Wise Children is Carter’s last novel and is a love song and dance to the theater and Shakespeare.

Many of the plot devices that Carter uses are adapted from Shakespeare, for instance the constant use of twins. There are so many twins (or are there?) in this novel.

For you must
Jul 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people.

Wise Children is an effervescent and tumultuous family saga that gives the Bard himself a run for his money. Carter has delivered us a stunning tribute to Shakespeare and showbiz in this gloriously life-affirming tale, somewhat at odds with her darker, more macabre earlier works but wonderful all the same.

Meet Dora Chance: a talkative and bawdy old biddy, she’s excellent company. Despite her twilight years and evident nostalgia, there is not one
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
Megan Baxter
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Descending Angel
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A hilarious tour-de-force spanning a century of the history of theatre and a family's life, told in a remarkably convincing voice. I could have done without the bonus incest; it didn't seem to serve any point.
Lee Foust
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a delightful novel, by turns hysterically funny, sweet, and just tragic enough to make us appreciate the delights of the lives it depicts. The voice and character of the narrator is more than charming. And, even if she rambles a bit and the plot proceeds sometimes in a kind of ad hoc order, we can easily assign these flaws to our narrator's age and the general vagaries of telling the stories of so many inter-related family members.

Of the three Angela Carter novels that I've read, this is
Oct 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Only 234 pages and yet it took me almost two weeks to read this rambling little book, but I still really liked it by the end. For a long time, I was pretty iffy on it -- but then an emotional feelswhammy hit me towards the end and had me tearing up and wiping away a tear on the subway while reading; and then through describing the book to a friend, I found myself appreciating it further.

Wise Children is about identical twins Dora and Nora Chance, illegitimate daughters of a famous Shakespearean
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Anna Baillie-Karas
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story of Dora & Nora, dancers in London between the wars, told as a fictional memoir. I loved much of this: it’s infused with Angela Carter’s great intelligence, wit & ability to mix high & low culture (Shakespeare, vaudeville, a magic show at Brighton pier... ). Themes of twins, identity & family in all its forms. Loved the single, singular women protagonists. She sustains a high-energy, exuberant tone.

But it’s so busy I got lost at times! The sheer number of names and the
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I persevered past the halfway mark. A good 40 pages before I abandoned my effort, I thought "this isn't very good, but too good to abandon." I was wrong. I'm sure it was supposed to be funny, or at least humorous, but I couldn't see it. And then, it was just vulgar and crude and more senseless sex than I have the stomach for.
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
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Reading 1001: Wise Children - Carter 23 25 Aug 09, 2019 11:55PM  
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Play Book Tag: wise children | angela carter | 4 stars 1 11 Dec 14, 2018 01:34PM  
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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.
“Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been” 87 likes
“There was a house we all had in common and it was called the past, even though we'd lived in different rooms.” 83 likes
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