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Wise Children

tour de force

carter chance dora narrative

a novel by Angela Carter, published in 1991. This novel departs almost entirely in narrative technique from the territory of fable and fantasy to which Carter had laid claim, though it does retain her characteristic element of carnival that removes it from the domestic realism with which it (ironically) engages. Set, over several decades, in a vividly evoked twentieth-century London, against a theatrical backdrop, it tells the story of the Chance twins, Dora and Nora, daughters of a great Shakespearian actor. The salty narrative voice of Dora, Carter's most lifelike creation, is a tour de force of humorous ventriloquism. The Shakespearian allusion gives Carter a chance to construct a comedy of errors replete with references to the bard's plays: incestuous couplings, doubtful paternities, obscure relationships, melodramatic suicides, unclaimed children, and, above all, twinnings and doublings proliferate. Carter also pays irreverent tribute to film. In typical manner, the boundaries between fantasy and reality, masks and faces, high and low art, and tragedy and comedy are constantly contested and blurred.

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