Friday, 10 February 2012

Something for the Weekend

Wise Children - Angela Carter

Like all of Carter's fiction, Wise Children is brimming with magical realism, fantastical characters and just a hint of the macabre. Twin theatrical sisters Dora and Nora Chance are our leads in a story about chorus girls, questions of paternity, love, tragedy and general familial disharmony. Dora narrates our way through the bright lights of her and Nora's 75th birthday in her light-hearted, sagely tone. The twins' birthday is also the 100th birthday of their father Melchior Hazzard and his twin brother Peregrine; as well as the birthday of Shakespeare, whom Carter admired greatly.

The twins' birthday begins with trademark dramatics when their nephew Tristram calls on them, announcing that his partner Tiffany (the twins' godchild) is pregnant and missing. Soon afterwards, news emerges that a body has been found and it is believed to be Tiffany's. Tiffany and Tristram are an amusing, mismatched couple who bring upon themselves great misfortune. Their story is one of the occasions where Carter appears to be poking fun at their misfortune - with great mischief. As with all of Carter's more tragic characters, nothing too dreadful occurs but there is considerable mishap and the story builds nicely.

Most of the story stems from Dora's memories and regrets of her earlier life. In particular, the subject of paternity is a major occupation for the Chance twins as they are not entirely sure of their parentage until the end of the book. Even then, there is a sense that they will remain rootless and free as they have been all of their lives. As a result, Dora and Nora are two of the more lively and spritely characters of Carter's ouevre. Another element of Wise Children that keeps the readers attention are the names of the characters, i.e Lady Atalanta Hazzard, My Lady Margarine, Peregrine Hazzard, Ross 'Irish' O'Flaherty and the wonderful 'Blond tenor with unmemorable name' all come to mind.

One of the best parts of the book is discovering the seemingly endless melee of identical and fraternal twins in the cast of characters. The sheer volume of characters, coupled with the complexity of their relationships (including incestuous ones) adds to the magical realism that Carter always used so excellently and is still much loved for. If you have a limited imagination - Carter is not for you, or maybe she is, as she could just change your perception of reality and fantasy and the limits of both. Wise Children is an example of just how fine a storyteller Carter really was and should be widely read along with her other titles. Carter's long time friend, Susannah Clapp has recently published A Card From Angela Carter, a collection of postcards from the pairs correspondence that lovingly represents Carter for the mischievous and talented writer she was. We have signed editions (while stocks last!) as Susannah was kind enough to come in and sign for us today. Other titles include The Magic Toyshop, Burning Your Boats and Nights at the Circus.


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