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The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
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The Magic Toyshop (original 1967; edition 1992)

by Angela Carter (Author)

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1,521397,473 (3.86)165
Member:MamaDun
Title:The Magic Toyshop
Authors:Angela Carter (Author)
Info:Virago Modern Classics (1992), Edition: Third Printing, 204 pages
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The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (1967)

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
strange, erotic, depressing and messy. obsession, virginity and horror. so p good i guess. ( )
  adaorhell | Aug 24, 2018 |
What an odd but fascinating book. At 15, Melanie is just beginning to discover her sexuality, and while her parents are on holiday she unearths her mother’s wedding dress, tries it on, and wanders through the garden at midnight. But her romantic dreams are cast aside when Melanie, her brother Jonathon and sister Victoria are suddenly sent to live with their Uncle Philip and Aunt Margaret, and Margaret’s brothers Francie and Finn. Margaret has been unable to speak since her wedding night (make of that what you will!), and communicates by writing on a chalkboard.

Philip owns the eponymous toyshop, and quickly apprentices Jonathon who has an affinity for building model ships. Fortunately Philip isn’t around much, which affords Melanie space to develop relationships with the others, especially her aunt. But Philip also expects the family to attend elaborate and disturbing performances by his handmade puppets, and stroke his ego by responding with great enthusiasm. Anything less risks his wrath. Philip rules the house with an iron hand, but is unable to break the strong bonds between Margaret and her brothers. Melanie gradually comes to understand the reality of life in this family, and shifts from passive victim to active resistance. Anything more and I’ll be in spoiler territory; suffice to say the dramatic final chapter is simultaneously shocking and satisfying, while still leaving several loose ends.

This book was my introduction to Angela Carter. I understand she’s not an easy author to read, but this is one of her more accessible books. I may have to try another one someday. ( )
1 vote lauralkeet | May 13, 2018 |
“I think I want to be in love with you but I don't know how.”

Melanie is fifteen, living in rural England with her younger siblings, Jonathan and Victoria, and discovering her ripening sexuality. One night whilst her parents are away in America she find her wedding dress in a trunk and decides to try it on. Wearing the dress she ventures outside into the garden. Initially she is awed by its vastness but suddenly becomes overwhelmed by thoughts of eternity, she turns back to the house for sanctuary only to realise she’s forgotten to bring her house key. Panic stricken she realises that her only way back in is an apple near to her bedroom window. Removing the dress she begins to climb naked, dragging the dress behind her "like Christian's burden". The night's terrors crush in around her and naked feels exposed, apples fall all to the ground around her and she is cut and bruised by the tree. She finally reaches her bedroom but seeing that the dress has been cut to ribbons and stained by her own blood she buries in in her mother's trunk hoping that no one will discover what she has done.

Still feeling traumatised by the previous night's excursion her world is rocked the next afternoon when telegram arrives bringing news of her parents' death in an plane crash. She blames their death on her destruction of the wedding dress and soon afterwards along with her two younger siblings she is forced to leave the countryside and move to South London to live with their estranged maternal Uncle Philip. Melanie's only knowledge of her uncle is from her parents’ wedding photo.

Philip owns a toyshop and lives with his wife, Margaret, and her younger brothers, Francie and Finn, and he rules the house by tyranny. Philip likes to make life sized puppets which he uses to put on private performances and sees Melanie's ripening beauty as the perfect foil in his demented theatre. Philip's influence throughout this extended family is like breakers crashing onto a beach hitting the household in waves as the other family members' relationships fluctuate between compliance or resistance to his overbearing control.

Family relationships are central to this novel. As Melanie’s sexuality grows she grows closer and closer to Finn until they begin to form the basis of a new family independent of the world that they’re trapped in with Uncle Philip. However, it is Margaret's relationship with her brother Francie that leads to the climax of this novel. However, this is not the only relationship that is sorely tested. Finn takes Melanie to visit an overgrown park once used to house an Expo to took at a fallen statue of Queen Victoria which seems to symbolize the death of traditional patriarchy.

Overall I found this an enjoyable read but it failed to really hit the mark with the intrigues not quite strong enough to rescue the book. Uncle Philip is largely absent from the book as he toils in his workshop and personally I would have liked to see him have an greater presence. Also the ending has rather strong echoes of Jane Eyre. All in all the book does not quite live up to it's fascinating opening but is still a worthwhile read. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Nov 5, 2017 |
Angela Carter's writing is luminous. THE BLOODY CHAMBER is still my favorite of her works (that I've read), but this gothic tale is richly woven and captivating. ( )
  nikkinmichaels | Jan 29, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Angela Carterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baiocchi, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Callil, CarmenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The summer she was fifteen, Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and blood.
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Book description
From the cover: "This crazy world whirled about her, men and women dwarfed by toys and puppets, where even the birds were mechanical and the few human figures went masked... She was in the night again, and the doll was herself."
Melanie walks in the midnight garden, wearing her mother's wedding dress; naked she climbs the apple tree in the black of the moon. Omens of disaster, swiftly following, transport Melanie from rural comfort to London, to the Magic Toyshop.

To the red-haired, dancing Finn, the gentle Francie, dumb Aunt Margaret and Uncle Philip. Francie plays curious night music, Finn kisses fifteen-year-old Melanie in the mysterious ruins of the pleasure gardens. Brooding over all is Uncle Philip: Uncle Philip, with blank eyes the colour of wet newspaper, making puppets the size of men, and clockwork roses. He loves his magic puppets, but hates the love of man for woman, boy for girl, brother for sister...

In this, her second novel, (awarded the 1967 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize) Angela Carter's brilliant imagination and startling intensity of style explore and extend the nature and boundaries of love.
Haiku summary
Bluebeard's Castle hides
a puppeteer of humans
who defy their fate.
(ed.pendragon)

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One night Melanie walks through the garden in her mother's wedding dress. The next morning her world is shattered. Forced to leave the rural home of her childhood, she is sent to London to live with relatives she has never met.

(summary from another edition)

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