My copy of The Magic Toyshop began life as one of those ill-fated books you pick up on your holiday, never actually get to, and then relegate to some forgotten corner of your house when you finally get to unpacking your suitcase (which you only do because you're going on another trip and you don't have any other suitably sized suitcases) months later. It would have probably remained forgotten to me forever if I hadn't read The Bloody Chamber and gone 'hang on...I know this author' and dug it out of the darkest corners of my bookshelf. Both are by Angela Carter and both are, incidentally, great.
The Magic Toyshop follows fifteen-year-old Melanie and her two siblings as they are pushed out from their comfortable home in the countryside and sent to London to live with relatives she has never met. These 'relatives' are a strange cast of characters - Aunt Margaret, who went mute the day she got married; her two brothers Francie and Finn who are as similar as night and day and creepy, terrifying Uncle Phillip who only loves his life-sized wooden puppets.
Set mostly a toyshop that seems to have had all the joy ripped out of it, Angela Carter's world is wondrously gothic and realistically gritty all at once. It's also an incredibly sensual book - every page is just dripping with Melanie's teenage hormones, as if she cannot contain them inside her and so they end up flooding every moment of her life and seeping through the pages of the book.
I loved it so much I finished it in one day and then, like some desperate A-Level student who hasn't started the assignment due tomorrow, scoured the internet to try and find as many critical essays on the book as I could. I can't believe I waited so long to read Angela Carter, and will be picking up her other works as soon as I can (though not whilst on holiday, because I do actually want to read these books).