Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Wise Children by Angela Carter

This is my third Angela Carter book. I read Nights at the Circus last year.  It was delightful and weird. I read The Bloody Chamber 8 years ago and only have sense memories about the Redbeard story. It’s overdue for a reread. I really want to watch the film Carter helped adapt from it, In the Company of Wolves, but I want to refresh my memory first. I do remember really enjoying it at the time. That said, I don’t remember having as strong a reaction to either as to this one.

Wise Children is  just a great book. It’s narrated by a woman, Dora Chance,  looking back at her life on her and her twin sister Nora’s 75th birthday. Which also happens to be her father and his twin’s 100th birthday. Their biological father was a Shakespearean actor. He didn’t acknowledge them. Their uncle claimed them as his children. The uncle was the actual father of the twin girls that Dora and Nora’s father actually claimed. Those are not the least twisted branches on the family tree.*

The story is a sweeping, hilarious, decadent coming of age story with more than a little touch of magical realism. Dora’s voice is perfect. She chronicles the history of her family and her life on and after the stage. It’s a generational story, but at around 230 pages it is a lean and perfect staging of that story.  It is a comedy, but as Dora says late in the novel, “Comedy is tragedy that happens to someone else.” There’s an undercurrent of sadness that keeps the more absurd and decadent elements grounded.

I don’t know what else to say about it other than go read it. It's near perfect. Probably the best novel I've read for the first time this year.

Canon Worthy

*  I’m uncomfortable with and don’t know what to make of the incest theme. It didn’t ruin the book for me at all, but it is uncomfortable. Consider this a content warning.

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