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The Magic Toyshop is an ideal starting point for Angela Carter virgins. A gripping well-written novel, the story contains Carter's hallmark dark and eerie imagery and shows off her limitless imagination while following a clear beginning, middle and end structure. The novel has a story that readers want to follow and lively characters even Carter first-timers will want to know more about.
Carter is escapism at its best. Her work allows us to consider things we never thought possible and come to think of fantasy and fairytale as perfectly normal and almost achievable.
But her writing also encourages us to explore gender, feminist and class themes, usually through female protagonists.
The Magic Toyshop provides us with stark images of poverty, violence and desire. As we follow the protagonist through her emergence into womanhood we are transported into another world and can almost smell the toyshop where Melanie spends so many hours thanks to Carter's description.
This book stayed vividly in my mind for days after reading it and made me desperate to revisit Nights at the Circus which I had dipped into before. It also led me on to read Carter's first novel and find out more about the author's life.
Highly recommended, a superb work of fiction.
I couldn't get enough of this novel. From an unenthusiastic start this soon took off at chapter 2 and then I couldn't put it down. I love Carter's writing style and I was surprised to see that this was only her second novel; it seemed so structured and confident. A super super novel! In discussion with others I was trying to work out why this a fairy tale when we tend to associate them with fanciful tales of legendary deeds and creatures, usually intended for children; however a fairy tale can also be a fictitious, highly fanciful story or explanation and I think it falls into the latter. It is an explanation of Melanie finding herself as a woman or an object in society. All the different representations of woman that Melanie goes through at the beginning, using the art form and then again the different interpretations of woman through the female characters - Mother, Mrs Rundle, Aunt Margaret, child (Victoria) and young adult (Melanie) were put together so well. Very clever!
Jacques Lacan's psychoanalytical theory of the Mirror Stage struck a chord with me, especially the opening pages in relation to this. It's all about Ego, the body image and the mother. Then the mirror was taken away from her when they moved to Uncle Philip's house. He reminded me of the Evil Queen in Snow White, which is again representative of the Mirror Stage. I think the title is quite apt, the toyshop is magic. Magic is a mysterious quality of enchantment and to be magic you possess distinctive qualities. Uncle Philip tried to perform his own magic by recreating a world he wanted and that he could control - Evil Queen? In one way or another they all possessed distinctive qualities and even down to the toyshop from the title, what is a toyshop? A toy is something you play with - which Uncle Philip did all the time, he played with them. An overwhelming 5/5 for me! It's now my fourth Angela Carter book and it certainly won't be my last.