Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
|Book Name:||Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||November 26, 1865|
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s tale of a girl who follows a white rabbit down a hole in the ground and finds herself in the strangest of places. It’s a story that’s left a huge and lasting legacy, with a multitude of adaptations and influences across all forms of media and spin-off products. On a more personal level, it was the first example of a portal fantasy I’d read (the first published?), a book I’d appreciate more and more in my teenage and adolescent years, but one I’d sadly neglect as adulthood beckoned and more ‘grown up’ fantasy novels began to appeal.
It’s been ten years, perhaps more, since I last joined Alice down the rabbit hole, and I too entered that strange world with a strong sense of trepidation. What if it wasn’t as good as I’d remembered? What if I’d decided to review one of the world’s most classic and revered stores, only to find I didn’t like it anymore? Surely giving it a low mark would ensure the internet equivalent of passers-by throwing rotten fruit at me?
From the very first page, it became clear that I had nothing to worry about. Alice’s journey, her exploits and the bizarre creatures and people she encounters were as amazing as I’d remembered. I was charmed – beguiled, even – by words that make the book come alive, as if it is literally speaking to its reader; that’s the intention, I suppose, as it’s a story designed to be read out loud by adults to children, so that both have a tale to enjoy.
It’s easy to see how it’s lasted through the generations, how the story and characters have endured for a century and a half. Carroll has written a book that is both clever and entertaining; his plays on words are intelligent without being smug, while his playful logic-twisting humour is laugh out loud hilarious as well as being packed with satire. It’s emotional, too, Carroll making sure that Alice is someone we can all empathise with; we feel her concerns, her frustration at her lack of knowledge, and – despite a knowledge of the outcome – we worry about her.
Wonderland itself is a place populated by strange anthropomorphic characters who are always engaging, despite their surreal nature. Whether they’re singing, reciting poetry or shouting “off with her head!”, all serve the purpose of drawing the reader into the story, while also having a sly dig at society. Tenniel’s original illustrations are said to be caricatures of politicians of the time; one of them, the Duchess, has a face that used to haunt my childhood, and I have to admit it was a little unnerving to see her again after all these years. Artists from Arthur Rackham to Salvador Dali have created visions of Alice and her companions over the years, but it’s Tenniel’s work that has always struck a chord with me, likely because it’s the first I saw.
Despite my initial fears, it was a delight to return to Wonderland with Alice. It’s completely captivating, a story that has aged like a fine wine and left an enduring legacy. The book is a veritable wonderland of words, one that has had volumes written about its symbolism, themes and literary style. At heart, though, it’s a wonderful story, one that’s as full of magic now as it was all those years ago.
And then there’s the end. Its quite downbeat, as Alice’s older sister muses on what she has been told, sees and hears the inspiration for the story all around her. It’s often felt downbeat to me – was Alice just dreaming? – although now I’m older (and, ahem, wiser) it feels more encouraging, a way of suggesting that we should let our imaginations loose to enrich our lives. As readers of fantasy stories, I’d like to think we’re honouring Carroll’s work by doing just that.