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Beyond the Lone Islands

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Magic Toyshop

I've just finished reading The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (Swedish title: Den magiska leksaksbutiken). I don't remember when I bought it, probably at some sale; it's been sitting on my shelf of unread books for at least a couple of years. The story was nothing like what I expected from the title or the cover; it's certainly not a children's story and the 'magic' of the toyshop very different from e.g. Narnia or Harry Potter - not that kind of otherworldly magic at all, even if there are some strange people. The 'evil magician' of the toyshop is the uncle in whose house 15-year-old Melanie and her two younger siblings come to live after their parents died in an accident. But the power he exercises over his household (his wife, her two brothers and the three children) is of the bullying puppet master kind and there is not really ever even an illusion of anything else.

Half way through the book, my reflection was that the language and style in which it is written reminded me of Martha Quest by Doris Lessing which I also read quite recently. A 'young girl growing up into a woman' perspective but although we see things through the main character's eyes, she still remains somehow distant, not quite in touch with either herself or her surroundings or the reader. This comparison still remains in my mind after I've finished the whole book, even if Carter's story is darker and more sinister than Lessing's.

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