13 Mar 2012

Literary review - Angela Carter's 'Nights at the Circus'

Published: 1984
Basic plot: The novel focuses on the life and exploits of Fevvers, a woman who is – or so she would have people believe – a Cockney virgin, hatched from an egg laid by unknown parents and ready to develop fully fledged wings. At the time of the story, she has become a celebrated aerialiste, and she captivates the young journalist Jack Walser, who runs away with the circus and falls into a world that his journalistic exploits had not prepared him to encounter. 

First and foremost, this is my favourite novel by my favourite author, so I was very happy to have to read it again for my Literature in History module at uni. Nights at the Circus is beautifully written, Carter proving that she is a modern day storyteller, with every background of each of her characters (and trust me - there's a lot) is perfectly composed with the paradoxical contrasts between disgust and beauty. My main love of the novel comes from Carter's language - which some people think it pretentious and complex language just for complex language sake - and the subject of Fevvers and the circus. I have a thing about the old-fashioned circuses, any art that deals with it I'm always fascinated by (recommending 'Water for Elephants' for those of a similar persuasion). I won't give too much away, but for anybody who can take the time to work through some of the tougher linguistic parts this novel is extremely rewarding. Angela Carter's short stories in 'Burning Your Boats' and 'The Bloody Chamber' are something else I would go for, they're a fabulous mix of the gothic and fairytales. 

1 comment:

  1. I wrote my research paper this year on this book. It was very interesting and Angela Carter is such a fascinating woman.