Sometimes the pleasure an author has taken in researching a novel adds a kind of radiance to the text. Wise Children is such a book. Despite being a magnificently vivid and funny first-person narrative delivered by Dora Chance (a 75-year-old ex-chorus girl, daughter of a famous Shakespearian actor), Wise Children is yet haunted by an image of the author herself, having a bloody good time. One imagines her striding purposefully around libraries and archives, loudly whistling Cole Porter's 'Brush up your Shakespeare'; or leading a sing-song in a South London pub, high-kicking like a Tiller Girl with a band of thickly painted old troupers. Perhaps she did neither, of course. But reading this exuberant book, there is an undeniable sensation that there was good sport at its making.
Wise Children is about theatre, about family, and about the manifold interesting places where acting and kinship intersect. In particular, it is about the role of the father. Dora and Nora Chance are the twin 'natural' daughters of Melchior Hazard, a long-lived theatrical paterfamilias who attains his century on the