2007: 12. The Magic Toyshop

“The summer she was fifteen, Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and blood.  O, my America, my new found land.”

The Magic Toyshop, Angela Carter

Carter is known as a feminist author, and much of her writing re-imagines and revisits fairy tales and other classic stories.* The Magic Toyshop, one of her early novels, touches similar themes. The novel follows the development of the heroine, Melanie, as she becomes aware of herself, her environment, and her own sexuality. After the unexpected deaths of her parents, Melanie and her two siblings are moved to the care of her tyrannical uncle Philip, a bullish and eccentric toy maker, in South London. Melanie goes from child to woman as she navigates her way through these changes in her life. The elements of the story play with fairy tale tropes – orphaned children, wicked uncles, mute and beautiful ladies – and the writing is both vivid and real. These are interesting ideas, and the book is, accordingly, interesting reading. My complaint would be that the book tries to have it both ways – it goes from extreme realism to text emphasizing the symbolic/mystical elements in a way that I found slightly schizophrenic, as if the author can't decide exactly what kind of novel she is writing. It definitely reads as the work of a young novelist, trying to do too much in one story. That having been said, I would definitely read more Carter – the writing is good, and the theme she plays with are extremely interesting.


Recommend for: People who like modern fairy-tale retellings; people who enjoy reading feminist texts.


*Or so I am told, since this is the first thing of hers I have ever read.


Date/Place Completed: 01/23/07, D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Virago Modern

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017