Wise Children is a riotous story which describes the lives of the Chances - Nora and Dora and their adopted Grandma - and the Hazards, an acting dynasty with an illegitimate connection to the Chance twins. The story is written in the first person, by Dora, who is remarkably erudite for someone who is not exactly top drawer, but that's probably due to her association with `Irish', an American writer, who has introduced her to literary classics - in alphabetical order.
The book documents a history of the theatre over the last century, and is full of anecdotes about the lives and loves of the protagonists, and the naughty and apparently incestuous goings on. There are many appealing characters, but Dora who tells us the truth about all these people is particularly appealing and inspires much empathy.
It is almost impossible to follow the plot, if there is one, but the prose is so rich - each sentence crammed with information, each paragraph, a history, so that in the end, it doesn't matter.
Just as you think it is all becoming sameish, there is a climax, in which unimaginable events take place in a cascade of magical realism - or unrealism. Nostalgic, sad and happy, the book is brim full of life and colour.
The most heart-warming book I've heard all year is Angela Carter's Wise Children, read brilliantly by Eileen Atkins...Every line is a delight. * * The Times * *
The classic text, now complete with a new jacket and introduction.