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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wise Children (1991) by Angela Carter

The complicated family tree from Wise Children by Angela Carter

Book Review
Wise Children (1991)
by Angela Carter

 Angela Carter died of cancer shortly after Wise Children was published.  It was an early death, she was only 51.  We don't know what else she would have written, but fair to say that it was a premature loss.  Carter was not only a novelist, she wrote poetry, short fiction, translated works from French and a wide variety of anthologized non-fiction.

   Her novels are therefore only one aspect of her contribution to the republic of letters, but I'm sure it's fair to say she has a higher profile in England then she does over here.  Like Nights at the Circus, her 1984 publication that ranks as her top book, Wise Children features non-conventional families immersed in the world of early 20th century musical theater and vaudeville.  Unlike Nights at the Circus, Wise Children is firmly rooted in the real, and abandons the flights into surrealism and magical realism which characterized Nights at the Circus.

  Wise Children largely consists of the reminiscences Dora and Nora Chance, the illegitimate twin daughters of theater impresario Melchior Hazard.  Set in an unspecified "present," much of Wise Children takes place in flashback form, as Dora and Nora go through all the different permutations suggested by the flow chart above.

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