Blasts from the Past: Wise Children by Angela Carter (1991)

Cover image This is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy in as many hands as I could.

Wise Children is my favourite Angela Carter novel. Stuffed full of Shakespearean references and written in language which is earthy, vivid and memorable, it’s steeped in show business from the Hazard Shakespearean dynasty to the music hall turns of the Chance twins.

On her seventy-fifth birthday, Dora Chance sits down to write her memoirs. She and her twin are the illegitimate daughters of the renowned Shakespearean actor Sir Melchior Hazard whose one-hundredth birthday is to be honoured at a magnificent party that evening. As Dora looks back over her life a tale unfolds of unacknowledged paternity, mistaken identities, twins at every turn, Shakespeare, Hollywood, music hall, discarded wives, glorious love and rollicking good times. Despite the social gulf that divides them and the refusal of Melchior to acknowledge the twins as his daughters, the paths of the Hazards and the Chances crisscross throughout their lives until the glorious finale, worthy of a Shakespearean Comedy, when all the players are assembled, identities revealed and more than a few home truths told.

A few years ago I took the plunge, rather apprehensively, and went to see Emma Rice’s adaptation of Carter’s novel largely on the strength of this review by Booksh Beck. It was fabulous, a wonderful, often raucous performance of which both the Chances and their creator would have been proud. Pandemic permitting, I hope there’ll be a chance to see it performed again some time.

What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

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16 thoughts on “Blasts from the Past: Wise Children by Angela Carter (1991)”

  1. I’m so pleased you got the chance to see this on stage! It was such a delight. Thanks for linking to my review. This has been my favourite Carter as well, probably tied with The Bloody Chamber (though I’ve only read five of her books so far).

    1. It was an absolute delight from start to finish! My wariness was about the adaptation of a favourite as you can imagine. Have you read Nights at the Circus? Probably my second favourite Carter.

  2. Wow, I can’t even imagine this book being brought to screen. And, yet, I guess that’s appropriate. Carter is kind of a can’t-look-can’t-look-away kind of writer! (I’ve not read Wise Children, but I do intend to.)

    1. It was adapted for theatre rather than screen, entirely appropriate given its subject matter! Fantastically well done. I loved it but have no idea when I might see it again given Covid 19 restrictions on performance. I hope you read it.

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