Wise Children A Novel

FSG Classics

Angela Carter

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

240 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

In their heyday on the vaudeville stages of the early twentieth century, Dora Chance and her twin sister, Nora—unacknowledged daughters of Sir Melchior Hazard, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day—were known as the Lucky Chances, with private lives as colorful and erratic as their careers. But now, at age 75, Dora is typing up their life story, and it is a tale indeed that Angela Carter tells.

A writer known for the richness of her imagination and wit as well as her feminist insights, Carter created in Wise Children an effervescent family saga that manages to celebrate the lore and magic of show business while also exploring the connections between parent and child, the transitory and the immortal, authenticity and falsehood.


Praise for Wise Children

"Dazzling . . . The culmination of Angela Carter's prolific and inventive career."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Wise Children inhabits its own manic universe and would probably translate into a spirited, bawdy musical comedy-farce of the kind which the Chance sisters themselves performed, long ago."—Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review

"A bawdy tale of parenthood told by a typical Carter heroine: witty, brash, and a sucker for farce who gives a story a good feminist spin. The septuagenarian Chance sisters, identical twins Dora and Nora, may like all wise children know their father, though the paternity has never been acknowledged, but they also learn here that after all these years they can't be too certain about their mother. Already busy on her memoirs, Dora begins her tale—told with all the innuendos and humor of the vaudeville comedians she once knew—on the day the sisters are invited to attend the hundredth birthday celebration of their father, the great Shakespearean actor Sir Melchior Hazard. The family bloodlines, Dora tells, were never all that clear: it has long been believed that a young lead—rather than aging grandfather Hazard, married to a much younger actress—was the real father of Sir Melchior and his twin, the lovable and rich Perry. It's also been believed that the eponymously named Chance sisters were the result of a liaison between their father and a young woman who died conveniently at their birth. Raised by the mysterious Mrs. Chance, the beloved 'Granny,' the talented twins were soon dancing and acting in variety shows, having affairs with the great and not-so-great and—the climax of their careers—making a movie in Hollywood, where Dora had an affair with a writer, whose resemblance to F. Scott Fitzgerald is quite intended. In between, Uncle Perry came bearing gifts; they met their father's three wives, and watched from the sidelines the goings-on of their half-siblings, whose own paternity is not all that clear either. An amusing romp through theatrical history that tries to answer . . . a serious question: What defines the true parent—blood or the actual rearing?"—Kirkus Reviews

"Carter . . . delivers comic writing of the highest order in this giddy tale of a highly eccentric British theatrical family."—Publishers Weekly

"On their 75th birthday, we meet Dora and Nora Chance, former dancers and illegitimate twin daughters of one of Britain's leading theatrical actors. They relate their colorful and amusing family history as the novel unfolds, describing their often strained relations with the legitimate branch of the family. Carter writes in a dry, comic, British style reminiscent of Fay Weldon. There is a good deal of theater chatter and a raucous Hollywood tour the girls undertake with father Melchior and his twin, Uncle Peregrine . . . there is much imaginative fun [and] insider humor."—Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Angela Carter

  • Angela Carter (1940-1992) was the author of many novels, collections of short stories, plays, and books for children.