Vintage Classics £8.99
Wise Children, By Angela Carter
A glittering life in the theatre
Sunday 19 February 2012
Angela Carter's Wise Children is narrated by Dora Chance, a sort of septuagenarian Ancient Mariner, dressed up in furs and kohl.
One half of the Chance twins – erstwhile chorus girls; illegitimate daughters of superannuated thesp Sir Melchior Hazard – Dora has us buttonholed in a Brixton boozer, with "a tale and a half to tell".
Her story spans a day, and a century. Dora's account of Melchior's raucous 100th birthday bash is interspersed with episodes from her family history and memories of a long career in showbiz: a bawdy music hall debut; an ill-advised Hollywood sojourn; encounters with George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin; a long decline into the margins of celebrity.
The plot is complex, and difficult to summarise, but suffice it to say there are bathetic twists and postmodern turns. The prose is a joy, replete with compressed aphorisms ("comedy is tragedy that happens to other people"), and inflated, grandiose similes ("Grandma looked like St Pancras Station, monumental, grimy, full of Gothic detail ...").
First published in 1991, the novel turned out to be the author's last. (She died the following year, at just 51.) While there are satirical aspects – the way Carter gleefully conflates high and low art suggests a desire to show up cultural snobbery – it is finally an affirmative and warm-hearted piece, with fewer hard edges than her previous work, and quite brilliant in every sense of the word.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
- 2 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 3 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut