Title: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Author: Lewis Carroll
Published by Wordsworth Classics, 1993
How I discovered this book: Who doesn’t know about Alice?
Review: This book felt like a psychedelic journey. I grew up knowing the fantasy world of Alice and the book’s fantasy is so merged in pop culture and movies that everybody knows about its delicious craziness and nonsense. When I think of Alice, I think of Disney and Tim Burton and if I hadn’t a somewhat literary curiosity for children books that crossed to an adult audience I would have never read Alice in Wonderland. It’s like when you see a movie adaptation of a book. You liked it, but you didn’t love it. Would you still read the book? Anyway, I digress…
Alice in Wonderland is complete nonsense and while you read you can’t help but think that perhaps Lewis Carroll was on crack or something because everything makes no sense at all. But in the middle of all the crazy things that are going on in Wonderland you clearly see that what you are reading is also utter genius. Because all the nonsense somehow starts to make some sense to you. That’s the time you can worry about if you are also going crazy, but who cares? You had a wonderful time living that nonsense, anyway.
So, this is what I liked about the books. The nonsense that made sense, the fact that the book is really well written, with amazing verses fitting perfectly with delightful/crazy prose, the sharp wit of Alice (and Lewis Carroll), the funny (sometimes ironic) dialogues and the world construction.
Still, Alice’s universe is never going to be among my favourites. Now I may contradict myself, but despite loving the nonsense, I sometimes felt it was too much for me, specially in Through the Looking Glass. I am one of those readers that need to follow a logical line of thinking through a novel, to find reason in the characters choices and motivations, to recognise a consistent plot line. And you have none of that in these two books, even though Alice in Wonderland feel more consistent than its sequel.
(On a side note…have you seen John Tenniel’s illustrations? They are AMAZING! So full of expression and sometimes skimming the grotesque in the drawings of the adult characters. It just blew my mind! I absolutely loved them. The drawings could tell a story by themselves.)
Overall: An iconic book that is utter genius and madness, with unforgettable characters and scenes. Everyone will forever remember The Queen of Hearts “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS” line, as everyone will forever remember the Hatter, Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the Catterpillar, the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Mock Turtle, etc, etc. It’s an explosion of creativity, from both Carroll and Tenniel, that my creative side couldn’t help but praise and adore. But, at some point, it was just too much nonsense for me. I will reread it sometime in the future, though. It’s the kind of nonsense that compels me to come back to it and see if I can make some more sense of it, (understand it better, I mean…learn the hidden message and the symbolism).
Quotes worth mentioning: There are so many worth mentioning! I will give you three that are not so famous, but somehow I related to them.
“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then”
“I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.”
“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’
What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice.
That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.”