Review: Wise Children by Angela Carter

This has to be, undoubtedly, one of the most confusing novels I have ever read. Parties, performances, A midsummer’s nights dream, America, the bard, twins, twins and even more twins. The carnivalesque mystique that presents itself through the novel is both extremely entertaining to read and aids the fairytale, surreal and magical tones that Carter has written in. But I think more importantly, the garish and hectic lives the characters live is a reflection of theatricality in itself.

The narrative follows the lives of Nora and Dora Chance, twins who both want to make it in showbiz like the rest of their family. The events that occur in the story are flashbacks and so the story in itself is confused as it does not follow a linear time scale and is able to jump around depending on the moods and thoughts of the female twins. The endless stream of characters; people they knew in childhood, family, relatives, husbands of actresses, illegitimate children of actors, film producers and comedians does not make this an easy text to read. If it was not for the family tree provided at the back of the book I would have been stumped from chapter 1.

But despite this chaotic and frenzied tone often overwhelming the reader I feel that it is because the events that occur are so interesting and peculiar that you cannot put the book down. Carter has reached the boundaries of what magical realism can do in literature. Carnivalesque and clocks. The simple combination of the everyday with the extraordinary is what makes it so fantastic. The frequent references to Shakespeare help the reader to make their own connections with the Chance sisters and the events that occur in their estranged lives. Again bringing something that is relatable into the mythical.

My final thought on this book is the beauty that seems to transcend the harsh realities of the text. Although Nora and Dora have lived through very hard times, lost people they loved and more often than not been seen as outsiders and not accepted into other people’s lives; they are still happy. They are still willing to grab life by the hand it pull themselves along with it. Persistence: a great coping mechanism. They seek pleasures in the small everyday things in life and although hoping for the world, the are happy to settle with a house in London.

 

"What a joy it is to dance and sing!"

“What a joy it is to dance and sing!”

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