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I thought this was a very interesting book. I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but I found the themes and ideas explored in it fascinating.

 

The sense of identity is a strong theme in the novel, Walser reinvents himself, Fevvers juggles her identity to suit herself, she is bird and woman, virgin and whore, genuine and fake. Walser, when dressed as a clown, delights in 'the freedom that lies behind the mask...the freedom to juggle with being'. Fevvers carefully evades all attempts by Walser, who writes down her story, to try and define her identity. In doing so she is also challenging the classic male definition of women as something that are defined and definable. The themes of truth and reality are also explored as the events get more and more unreal, and we never know what is actually happening. Fevvers never reveals her true identity to anyone, even the reader is left wondering at the end.....who, or what, was Fevvers?

 

The novel obviously has a strong feminist tone to it. Although Walser is the writer, Fevvers has the strongest voice. She is in charge. By having her story written she is taking responsibility for her own sense of self, creating herself as she wishes. It is significant that Walser becomes a human chicken because a chicken is a flightless bird - Fevvers has wings and can fly, thus she is in a more elevated position that him. Fevvers' admission that Walser's are the 'eyes that told her who she was' is a little ambivalent - is she meaning that a woman will always be defined by what she means to a man, or is Carter just making the point that we all need someone to believe in us to make us feel real and reinforce our sense of self?

 

I could discuss this for ages, but I'm going to stop here - if anyone has any thoughts I'd like to hear them, and I'll put up some more posts myself.

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I am just now reading this book for a discussion group at Yahoo. It was really due to be finished by Feb 1 but I got the book late. I had some trouble locating it at my local libraries. I was so surprised to see you post. I had never heard of this author before and I am enjoying the book!

 

As I get further along I will add some comments.

 

Did you just read it recently?

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Cool, let me know what you think of it when you're done! I read it for uni last year and really enjoyed it. I didn't think I liked Angela Carter as I read 'The Magic Toyshop' also by her in first year at uni and didn't think much of it. However I've been meaning to read it as a slightly more mature reader to see if my opinions have changed. If you like Nights at the Circus maybe you should try The Magic Toyshop as well? :)

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  • 2 months later...

It's about 15 years since i read 'Nights at the Circus. I had never read anything like it before, and although I didn't exactly like it, nor understand it, I remember that it took my breath away with the sheer imagination of it.

 

I'm disappointed that neither of you returned to expand on your first comments.

 

The only other Angela Carter I read was 'Wise Children', back in 1992, just after she died, - although I have an idea that I have seen this serialised on TV in more recent times. There are some themes in the book that remind one of N at the C, so if you like that you will probably like Wise Children too.

 

I see there is a 'Beginners Guide' to Angela Carter by Gina Wisker, which you may find interesting. A.C. was a highly acclaimed author in the late '80s/early '90s, although not much known to the general reader.

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I may have a go at Wise Children, thanks for the recommendation!

 

I too am disappointed Winterwren didn't come back to comment...I can hardly discuss with myself!

 

I think it's a fascinating novel and I remember having a great time discussing it in my seminar group!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I loved it!!! What a wonderfully weird story. Sorry, I didn't come back in and comment on it after I was done. I probably forgot I said anything to begin with - I get lost wandering around here!! LOL I got the book from the library so I no longer have it with me. Do you belong to any reading groups at Yahoo? The group that I read with there had a nice discussion on the book and of Angela Carter. Still I can look up some links on line and remind my self of names and such and would be tickled to chat with you about this book and this author.

 

Trudy (Winterwren)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I read this years ago too. And I've moved house may times in between. Nights at the Circus is always in my bedroom bookcase, I'd feel strange without seeing it there. And you have got me wondering why - so I'll read`it again, but before I do I remember the sense of freedom I saw in Fevvers. The fascinating combination of strength and fragility, the bravery and the fear..........and I think that's what I remember, the 'yin and yang' of it, the classical conflict within the character and the ageless edge of humour and tragedy. And the interesting bit will be if I feel the same on re-reading - watch this space, but give me a couple of weeks or so.

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