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Wise Children

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  7,775 ratings  ·  649 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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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  7,775 ratings  ·  649 reviews


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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
...more
carol.
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
...more
Cecily
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
...more
Jan-Maat
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
...more
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, i
...more
Gabrielle
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
Teresa
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 likel
...more
Beth
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 l
...more
Wanda
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
...more
Dan
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not a fan of what I think of as theatrical novels. An admittedly huge generalization this, but overly vivid characters, outrageous plots, and paeans to acting and theaters typically don’t absorb me. I think of Angela Carter’s Wise Children as a theatrical novel, as I do Robertson Davies’ Deptford Trilogy. Both Wise Children and the Deptford Trilogy absorbed me despite not being to my taste: high praise for fiction.

Angela Carter fills Wise Children with wonderful characters: the irrepressibl
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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
Rebecca
“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 o ...more
Nancy Oakes
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk-fiction, favorite
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
...more
David
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second venture into the work of Angela Carter. My first was 'The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories' - apparently the work of hers best-received; however, though I found much in that story collection to admire and even enjoyed much of it quite a bit, this novel (Carter's last published work) surprised me considerably, and I feel it's a refreshing leap forward.

Carter began writing it after learning she'd been diagnosed with lung cancer. ~ which becomes particularly significant as you ma
...more
Ygraine
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves
may 2020:

one of the cleverest, most compassionate, most knowing books i've ever read ! gleeful & grinning & slightly glassy-eyed every time i get to the end of it !

march 2017:

there is so much to love in forty nine bard street, the threadbare glamour and vibrant, warm soul of the building and its women. their world has seen better days, but with every page, dora breathes life back into cold, dusty rooms, old, arthritic joints, long forgotten desires and long hidden secrets. and despite the many
...more
L
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. ...more
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 bo
...more
Doug
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5, rounded up.

This is my first time reading Carter, and this - her final novel - appears to be atypical from the rest of her canon (which appear to be mainly macabre modern fairy tales). This put me in mind of Patrick Dennis' Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television/Belle Poitrine/as told to, being a faux autobiography of twin sisters who never QUITE make it in show biz, but have a whale of a time trying for fame and fortune. It took awhile for it to a
...more
Christine
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 rem
...more
Ashley
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.
Hugh
Everything Angela Carter wrote was interesting, but for me, this last novel was her best. Full of humour and imagination, this Gothic theatrical tale is a book I must read again some day.
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
...more
Jess
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, best-heroines
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 s
...more
Christy
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
...more
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
...more
MTK
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. ...more
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. ...more
Hilary
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.
c.s.
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
sisters/mothers/grandmas + loss/memory + living in a house filled with dust motes & cobwebs. beyond all the Shakespearean stuff, i felt so much of this book + there were so many special moments. there is a grand old house in which the twin sisters live in that reminded me so much of the movie gray gardens - little edie! empty cat food cans, the old smell of mothballs, piles of the past. "...a bowl full of potpourri on a worm-eaten oak chest in the hall gave out a smell of old ladies and heart br ...more
Teresa
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read my first Angela Carter novel last year, The Magic Toyshop, reviewed here http://www.lovelytreez.com/?p=50 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
...more
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Reading 1001: Wise Children - Carter 23 32 Aug 09, 2019 12:25PM  
Reading 1001: Wise Children by Angela Carter 4 20 Jul 21, 2019 07:07PM  
Did Peregrine rape Dora? 2 22 Mar 14, 2019 05:22PM  
Play Book Tag: wise children | angela carter | 4 stars 1 11 Dec 14, 2018 02:04AM  
What did Melchior really want? 2 34 Jun 14, 2013 02:25AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: April {2012} Discussion -- WISE CHILDREN by Angela Carter 17 132 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

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