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The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
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"The Magic Toyshop" (original 1967; edition 2009)

by Angela Carter

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1,269286,218 (3.84)126
Member:alexandra_hw
Title:"The Magic Toyshop"
Authors:Angela Carter
Info:Virago Press (2009), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, Read
Rating:****
Tags:2012

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The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (1967)

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
I just didn't like it. I acknowledge that it's well written, so I can't give it a terrible rating. But it's Sooooo utterly dark and angry and depressing. It's "good".... but really wasn't enjoyable for me. Maybe if I had read more uplifting books lately, I wouldn't have felt so dragged down by it, but I came off of a couple of dark, angry books and ... honestly, when I finally finished the (200 page!) book, I could hardly bring myself to pick up another book.... (so glad I chose [The Martian]!!)

It's about ... well, it's weird because it's NOT about a magic toyshop. So, yeah, there's that. There's a toyshop, but ... there's no magic there. There's a hint of maybe supernatural or gothic or something ... like 3 times. Just a hint. But that's it. And ... it's easy to chalk it up to exhaustion, imagination, stress... rather than ANYthing supernatural at all. So you think you're reading a book about magic, but it's just not.

Melanie loses her folks and has to go live with her uncle in a dirty, poor part of London. Her formerly rich and lavish life takes a severe nosedive as she attempts to navigate a world in which the patriarch is an abusive, angry, oppressive force. And poor 15-year-old Melanie struggles with not being the loved, pretty, spoiled girl she once was, as her 12-year-old brother withdraws further into himself and her 5-year-old sister essentially forgets her former life. Along with her uncle are his mute wife (who is only ever referred to as "dumb") and her two brothers, one of whom Melanie finds herself simultaneously repulsed by and drawn to. And the uncle is a toy maker who hates many of his customers, and he is obsessed with life-sized puppets, which is creepy and weird.

So yeah. It's like a creepy, weird, dark, depressing story about terrible things happening to people. Terrible things. But yes, it is well written. Carter has a talent.

So overall, three of 5 stars. Not enjoyable, but well done, if the story sounds like your kind of thing (and it apparently is for a LOT of people who really love this book). ( )
  avanders | Feb 6, 2015 |
As ever, Carter delivers magic in the ordinary and extraordinary. Melanie, oldest of three siblings, is passing into middle class adolescence and maturity. With her parents away, she dresses in her mother's wedding dress and loses herself in the wild night and the apple tree. Too young for the adult world, but on the cusp, bereavement takes her to the Magic Toyshop and the care of its fantastical inhabitants. What happens there as she grows up and catalyses drama and disaster, is fantastical, disturbing and exhilarating.
  otterley | Apr 12, 2014 |
There's only one thing better than a good book, and that's a good book that introduces you to a brand new author. Angela Carter may well just be my new obsession.

Carter's writing is at times, exquisite and at times, harrowing. This has all the elements of a fairy tale but goes much deeper than that. Sex, feminism and incest all get a look in. This book is both claustrophobic and liberating.

The ending is abrupt and a little jarring because of that. With hindsight though, what else was there left to say?

( )
  ElaineRuss | Sep 23, 2013 |
I'm not completely sure I was old enough for this book, but it was an illuminating experience all the same. ( )
  dmarsh451 | Apr 1, 2013 |
I almost gave this book four stars as it was an enjoyable read but it wasn't quite at the four star mark for me. Still, I really like the wistful way that Carter seems to write. This was my first novel of hers that I had read and it follows the journey of our teenage protagonist Melanie and her relocation to different family members and socioeconomic status in London. Melanie has a brother who appears to have some kind of Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Autism the way he is described but it isn't made completely clear in the book. She has to battle through an uncle who is a creative genius toymaker but also a tyrant. There is a family secret as well.

If there is a flaw to this book, it is that the main character from the beginning longs to be loved by a man and married. She sees her older spinster nanny and her cat and she is scared this will happen to her. She arranges her body in various positions to echo the females in famous paintings and just longs for a man. You can tell when she finally reaches the point where she is kissed, admired, and loved that she doesn't want to settle in her mind into a life with a smelly older cousin from Ireland with gross teeth but at the same time she is thrilled to be loved and admired by a man that you get the sense she will overlook this.

I don't know...I think that sort of brought the book down a great deal for me. Otherwise, it's relatively light reading about a darker topic and I was looking for something quite like this in terms of writing style when I picked it up considering the heavy handed bleak days I must bike through in winter. ( )
  kirstiecat | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Angela Carterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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