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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 29 May 2009

"Wise Children" by Angela Carter

On her 75th birthday, Dora Chance tells the story of her life with twin sister Nora. The Lucky Chances were a dance act during the declining days of variety but what really set them apart was the interlocking of their lives with the Hazard dynasty of classical actors including their father Melchior, who is celebrating his 100th birthday. Twins, bastards and intra-family affairs permeate this romp through this comedy of the legitimate and the illegitimate theatre.

This is a fantasy, a fairy tale. It is often necessary to willingly and consciously suspend one's disbelief; the pay off in entertainment terms is well worth it. Coincidences abound (there are 5 sets of twins; Nora and Dora share their 75th birthday with their father Melchior (and his twin Peregrine) and Shakespeare. Peregrine is a magician; he arrives out of the blue at key dramatic moments and then disappears (in one case presumed dead) and then returns having made a fortune out of gold, or oil, or... A lot of Perry's back story is secret.

There are many Shakespearean themes (twins, fathers) and motifs:
  • Melchior's father murdered his mother and her (presumed) lover and then committed suicide after he had played Othello to her Desdemona (and the presumed lover was playing Iago); later Melchior plays Othello and marries HIS Desdemona
  • Tiff goes mad on live TV, carrying flowers, singing a song and subsequently drowning, like Ophelia in Hamlet;
  • The twins dance as fairies in a film version of Midsummer Night's Dream starring their father and written by their uncle.
  • Lady Atalanta is cast out of her house by her two evil daughters, as Lear is cast from his kingdom by his Goneril and Regan.
  • The musical show What? You Will! is the alternative title for Twelth Night which features a pair of twins
Birthday parties throughout are excruciating occasions full of betrayal and unhappiness. The funniest moment of the book comes when Melchior gives his twin daughters Saskia and Imogen (who aren't actually his daughters) a present at their 21st birthday: the present is a new step mother.

As well as twins, mirrors crop up as a theme. Deefholts explains in detail that the theme of the twins is in itself a theme of reflection, with the mirror image often being the literally perverted or evil aspect. Dulaities include Dora versus Nora, the "legit" theatre vs the music halls, north Londond vs South London, Peregrine vs Melchior, Nora and Dora vs Saskia and Imogen etc.

This book is immense fun and an exhilirating read.

May 2009, 232 pages

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