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The Magic Toyshop [Paperback]

Angela Carter
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 15 1996
One night Melanie walks through the garden in her mother's wedding dress. The next morning her world is shattered. Forced to leave the comfortable home of her childhood, she is sent to London to live with relatives she has never met: Aunt Margaret, beautiful and speechless, and her brothers, Francie, whose graceful music belies his clumsy nature, and the volatile Finn, who kisses Melanie in the ruins of the pleasure gardens. And brooding Unlce Philip loves only the life-sized wooden puppets he creates in his toyshop. This classic gothic novel established Angela Carter as one of our most imaginative writers and augurs the themes of her later creative work.

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From Library Journal

Originally published as Honeybuzzard (LJ 1/1/67), Shadow Dance launched British author Carter's career, which she buttressed with The Magic Toyshop two years later. Both received praise from LJ's reviewers, especially the latter novel, which was hailed as an "extraordinary, even brilliant piece of writing" (LJ
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A magic novel, sexy and eccentric, romantic and tricky."
Voice Literary Supplement

"Beneath its contemporary surface, this novel shimmers with blurred echoes—from Lewis Carroll, from 'Giselle' and 'Coppelia,' Harlequin and Punch.… It leaves behind it a flavor, pungent and unsettling."
The New York Times Book Review

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The summer she was fifteen, Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and blood. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Come into my parlour April 2 2009
Angela Carter wrote seriously weird yet truly captivating and intelligent magical realism. This was her second book. It is the heroine Melanie's coming of age story packaged in a fairytale-like sense of unreality.

Melanie and her two siblings are suddenly orphaned at the very beginning of the novel and ripped from their genteel upper-class way of life to live in the slums of a large city with their brutal Uncle Philip (a toymaker) and their silent Aunt Margaret.

Melanie finds herself increasingly drawn to the young man Finn who has the bedroom next to hers. He is a quietly subversive, freakish character who sides with Melanie in her growing dislike of Uncle Phillip. The household is full of submerged tension that centres around Aunt Margaret and which comes to a head when Melanie is forced to play the part of Leida in Uncle Phillips dark puppet version of Leida and the Swan. Melanie is metaphorially raped, Finn defies his uncle to come to her rescue and the repressed members of Uncle Phillips swiftly family spiral into chaos.

The ending is a little unexpected (like a train wreck when the rails run out!)and not as well controlled as the rest of the novel but this is a book you read for images, ideas and spectacular use of language as much as for the plot.

Carter excelled at writing bizzare details that fascinate at the same time as they repell...and this makes for a compelling read. This is a book I first read in my early twenties and one I re-read every couple of years or so and always find something new.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Magical stumbling Feb. 22 2007
Angela Carter was a master of really weird magical realism. Her second book "The Magic Toyshop," is basically a forcible coming of age/first love story, wrapped in a fairy-tale ambience and exquisitely detailed writing, but it's hard not to be frustrated by the abrupt, bizarre finale.

Melanie and her two siblings are suddenly orphaned, and whisked away from the beautiful country house and idyllic life they've always known. Soon they're living in a slummy area of the city, with their brutish toymaker Uncle Philip, wraithlike mute Aunt Margaret, and her two brothers, in a house that is crammed with the magnificent toys that Uncle Philip creates.

Melanie finds herself increasingly drawn to her aunt's brother Finn, a feisty Irish boy who hides an artistic soul and a punk attitude -- and he and Philip are locked in a silent war. As the family tensions come to a climax, Melanie learns of a dark secret that Aunt Margaret is hiding, and which can only end in a horrific tragedy.

"The Magic Toyshop's" title would make you think that it's about... well, the toys, or the toymaker. Instead, it's all about Melanie's maturation into a young woman, and how she leaves her childhood behind. Unfortunately it starts to stagger toward the finale, as if Carter didn't know how to deal with all this stuff.

What makes this novel so intoxicating is the lush writing. Carter fills her prose with a ripe sensuality, rich in colours, sensations, feelings and impressions (such as the horrifying attack by a swan puppet, a la Leda). And she accurately captures a young girl's dreams and exploration, such as Melanie posing before a mirror, pretending to be a classic artist's model.
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5.0 out of 5 stars OMG! What a book! June 15 2004
By A Customer
Being the same age as the main character, Melanie, I simpathise with her situation, however feel that she is strong enough not to need it.
A young hopeful girl coming to terms with her self, and relishing in fantasies of life and love yet to come. She feels traped and held back, only realising what she had when her life comes tumbling down around her.
Orphaned and empoverished Melanie and her two younger siblings are sent to live with their 'Uncle Philipe' in London.
When Melanie arrives at her uncles home (The Magic Toy Shop), she finds him living in the squalor of down trodden London, running his houshold on next to nothing. There she meets 'The red people', Uncle Philipes mute wife, Auntie Margaret and her two brothers, Francie and Finn.
Her fantasies destroyed she must stay strong under the harsh, misogynistic, and violent reign of the puppet obsesed Philipe. Her only comfort being the strong yet strange bond between 'the red people'.
Gradually Melanie, finds herself falling, angainst her own will, for one the quirky and mysterious brothers Finn. Discovering that love is not way it seems in magazines and books.
However, Melanie's not so simple life takes a bizarre turn. Edding in a chaotic climax. You'll be itching for more when you've finished, and like my self wishing Angela had written a sequel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An odd coming of age tale Sept. 5 2003
By Megami
This is an odd story: Melanie and her siblings live a life of middle-class luxury until their parents die in a aeroplane accident in America. It quickly becomes apparent that their father had not thought of this possibility, so the house contents are sold up and the children sent to live with their mysterious Uncle Phillip in London.
So far, so not odd, we have all read a rich kid becomes poor through circumstance story. But this one is odd in that Uncle Phillip is a stern disciplinarian who resides over a poverty stricken household of his silent wife and her two brothers. Melanie cannot figure out why this woman has married her awful uncle, a malevolent puppet maker who cares more for his wooden creations than his family. The situation in the household slowly deteriorates, with the ill will seeming to grow as the days go by, until everything becomes undone in the violent climax.
Melanie is a character that it is hard to sympathise with, as though we are given insight into both her internal mental state and the awful things around her, I ended the book still not feeling a really knew her. Without giving away the plot, there seems to be a lot of inevitability that doesn't quite ring true. Or perhaps the author was attempting to underline how some people's life is swept on the currents of events they have no control over. Either way, I thought that the characters were interesting, I only wish that I could have understood their motivations a little better.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read !!!!!!
its a great book and i feel that reading it leaves you with a feeling of'wow what was all that about? Read more
Published on April 25 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force!
Angela Carter has never failed to impress me. Her imagination knows no limits -- and she illustrates the same whenever she explores the realm of magical realism in her novels. Read more
Published on April 16 2003 by CoffeeGurl
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling.
A tour de force for Angela Carter. This novel is a perfectly formed gem cut in the inimitable Carter style. Read more
Published on Dec 13 2002 by Reverend_Maynard
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Angela Carter was a genius. The book is written in a very floral, descriptive language that perhaps wth other writers would present a shallow novel. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my very favorites
It's truly excellent because of the fairy tale/children's story element. It's also a story about life in England for young people in the early 70's. Read more
Published on Sept. 18 2002 by R. Gahan
5.0 out of 5 stars my favorite book by angela carter
i have given this book away too many times - from now on, i'm keeping mine and buying new ones for my friends and lovers. i adore angela. i *ADORE* this book. Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2002 by blah
5.0 out of 5 stars swans and puppets and gothic erotic
Of all of Carter's books this one retains an extra certain kind of charm, perhaps because it plays on this children's book format thing. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2001 by sharon thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Angela Carter: Mother of Magic Realism.
This early Angela Carter novel is one of her simplist and best. I recently read a book , SIGHTS by Susanna Vance, that carries on Carter's otherworldly tradition of writing.
Published on May 23 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing, dark story
In 1991 I saw the film version of this book on A&E and was immediately hooked. Carter wrote the screenplay, and while the film had many elements of magical realism not in the... Read more
Published on Nov. 7 2000 by Sabrina
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