Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Happy Un-Birthday Alice – 150 Years of Wonderland and Counting! Reviews of Alice in Wonderland

The 26th of November see’s the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen-name, Lewis Carroll. To celebrate Space on the Bookshelf are having a Wonderland Week, (and as we all be mad here, it’s not what you’d call an actual week, but when you know Time personally he doesn’t take offence!).

In the next few day’s our posts will include idea’s so you can run your own Un-Birthday Party with wonderland crafts and foods, and a review of Cathy Cassidy’s ‘Looking-Glass Girl. But to start off we are going to do a 3D review of Alice in Wonderland, (or as much as we can, with an editor and author interview quite out of the question) with a review by 11 year old Bea an adults review (by me) but with a difference. So, without further ado, hold your breath and down the rabbit hole we go…

Reviews, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Children’s Review by Bea aged 11

Two glowing eyes, one large smile and a very cheeky attitude it’s the Cheshire cat. Join Alice and the strange animals of wonderland as she takes a mysterious stroll trying to find her way home to a normal life. Through her magical journey Alice meets evil head chopping queens, unusual talking animals and a rabbit that’s late for an important festival. This adventure starts by a large fall through a ginormous rabbit hole but will it finish the way Alice wants it to with a blanket and a family next to a warm fire or will Alice be trapped with nasty queens and curious creatures. I like this book as its funny and has lots of cliff hangers, it is really well written and it’s just and amazing book that you will never forget. I recommend this book as I think you will enjoy it, if you like mysterious places and creatures, also this book makes you feel like you’re in the adventure and it helps you to learn the creatures’ personalities. Once you’ve picked up you can’t put it down!!!

Adults Review

It came as a surprise to me when I realised that I had never actually read Alice in Wonderland, as I know the story so well. Like many of my generation, I was practically weaned on tales of curious Alice and the mad residents of Wonderland; I played a ducked-billed platypus in a school production as a teenager, and have watched all manner of televised adaptations, from the well-known Disney animation to Tim Burton’s live action 2010 feast of a movie, and every adaption in-between (who can forget Ben Kinsley’s caterpillar?). My children have been on Alice themed floats on Village Fetes, and I’ve read about the neuroses and psychoses of the Wonderland residents in Laura James ‘Tigger on the Couch’, learning that The Queen of Hearts is suffering from Acquired Situational Narcissism.

Also as an adult, and having written a dissertation on ‘The Freudian Impact on The Loss of Innocence in Artists Representations of Children’, I’m also aware of the more sinister associations and misuses of the phase ‘Wonderland.’ So when I came to reviewing the book for this post, it became something even deeper, it became a study into reviewing a book when you already have so many preconceptions of the plot and characters. The question was in my mind, how much will all this baggage erode the enjoyment of reading the book?

Starting the book was the hardest, (as when I opened my copy, out fell some of the research from my dissertation which was disconcerting), but then sitting down and letting my mind be free to focus on the words Lewis wrote opposed to paying heed to the images in my mind was tricky. I found that comparing the text to all of the adaptations and re-writes I had seen and read was near on impossible, and was seriously impleading the reading experience. Getting past this was difficult and I struggled, taking a hideously long time to get through chapter one, but then half way through the second chapter all these struggled dissolved, lost in a Pool of Tears, when I realised that the story I know is just a mere duplication, a caricature of the original. As soon as I settled down and allowed myself to switch off my brain and just concentrate on the book, a strange thing happened; I began to enjoy the story, which is strange as I have never actually liked Alice or any of the Wonderland stories before. 

It turn out Alice, who comes out as rather pretentious and un-likable in the screen adaptations, is actually rather endearing. Yes, she is precocious BUT she is also naive and many of the clever things she think she knows, she doesn’t at all; she is just a curious child with a yearning for adventure.

“When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am I the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought!”

A child with a curious nature, and a willingness to eat things fully knowing that the consequence will be height altering, and to converse with anthropomorphic creatures with the least bit of concern.

“I almost wish I hadn't gone down the rabbit-hole-and yet-and yet-it’s rather curious, you know, his sort of life! I wonder what can have happened to me!”

Another welcome surprise was that despite Alice seemingly meandering around Wonderland from one adventure to the other, the book is actually fast passed and that much of the adventure is instigated by Alice herself rather than her just happening upon it. Like when she decides she wants to visit the beautiful walled garden and making it her own mission to realise that goal.

The Wonderland inhabitants also had be surprised, the lack of Tweedledum and Tweedledee for example, (who don’t appear until Alice goes Through the Looking-Glass), the leniency of the hen-pecked King of Hearts, or the Cheshire Cat who may be the most sane Wonderlander there is. Then there are the characters that I’d never heard of, like The Duchess who arguably features as much or even more than the more well-known charters like The Mad Hatter or The Cheshire Cat. I adored the Mock-Turtle and the Gryphon, especially their humorous quirky logic.

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

With reading and reviewing this book, I discovered that many things, about the book, not least the fact that I actually enjoyed it, and found it an amusing and fascinating journey into a truly unique world, but also about myself and my traits at writing books off by judging them by their imitations, and adaptations. What I now know, is that I need to read a book before formulating an opinion about it, and that I need to embrace my inner child, and forget all of the information that I already know about a story to really appreciate it and have an enjoyable reading experience.

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