Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Book Review: Wise Children by Angel Carter
I am three books behind on my reviews, so I read this a month or two back. I should firstly explain that I LOVE Angela Carter. I was sent in her direction by an old uni tutor- I had gone to discuss my end of term Creative essay (filled with unicorns and warlocks) and he said my ideas sounded similar to her Bloody Chambers collection; ever since she has been my writing hero.
This cover is not the same as the book I have; the one above is misleadingly chick-lit with the fashion illustration and lilac. This is the story of identical twins Dora and Nora, daughters of Melchoir Hazard, the infamous Shakespearean stage star. Now, on their 75th birthday they look back on their lives as they prepare for Melchoir's 100th birthday party.
I can't outline the plot here, it is full of twists and turns, mistaken identities, illegitimate children, even hints of incest. The story is told from the point of Dora, who waltzes off in chatty prose, adding asides and getting carried away with details. Lyrical and very poetic, Carter's metaphor and simile is refreshingly to the point. She just gets it right in minimal words, no fuss, pomp or romanticism, every observation is razor sharp and very clever. The character list is vast, with relationships so intertwined you may find yourself turning back pages to figure out who is who. This confusion adds the the reading experience, which is like being privy to a modern tale from the Bard. Never have we been more reminded that 'All the world's a stage'.
It is impossible not to fall in love with chortling, catch-phrase laden Dora, who leads us through the twins' 1930s world of polished stages, tap shoes, heady oriental perfumes and dressing room liaisons. She is matter of fact about events that in any other context would sound plain mad, yes this book is laced with Carter's trademark magic realism, I particularly liked addition of film producer Genghis Khan and his tragic mourning first wife who silently shadows him daily.
This book is not the most gentle introduction to Angela Carter (try The Magic Topshop) but I recommend giving it a go as it's a real reading experience. I will probably pick it up it again in a few months, as I think it's one that will reveal all the more on 2nd more informed read.