Let’s be realistic – the vast majority of people are more than likely to have read Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. If they haven’t, then chances are high that they’re seen film adaptations, or at the very least know the plot line. It’s fair to say that Lewis Carroll wrote a book which has truly stood the test of time. As such, this is not going to be a lengthy or particularly detailed review. I’m not going to examine the symbolism, hidden meanings or contexts of the book; there is a wealth of literary criticism already in existence for such things. Instead, I am simply going to talk about some of the things from my own reading experience.
I read Alice numerous times as a child, but this is the first time I would class having read it as an adult. The edition I read was the ever beautiful Penguin English Library, which actually also contains the follow up, Through the Looking Glass and Back Again. Essentially, both follow our young protagonist, Alice, as she travels to the fantastical Wonderland, encountering strange people along the way. It is a brilliant example of the literary nonsense genre.
The book quite literally throws us immediately down the rabbit hole (as the popular saying goes), with Alice following the white rabbit as he hurries along worrying that he is late. Like many effective children’s books, the story instills and sustains interest from the start. This is only heightened by the imagination within the book, which is quite often mind blowing. It certainly gives potential credit to many of the rumours stating that the book was written whilst Carroll was under the influence of drugs. Either way, the weird and crazy characters and ideas within the book are entirely strange to read, let alone to try and make sense of.
I would highly recommend this edition of the book, with the illustrations by John Tenniel really enriching the experience. Along with that, the book itself is mixed media, with the use of poems being one such example. A particular favourite of mine was on p. 25 where the form of the poem itself is actually shaped into something serpentine.
Both of the books are highly anthropomorphic, with often extremely bizarre creatures. I loved this, with the characters being so unique and often comedic. What I will say is that both of the books are extremely fast paced. As such, we do not spend as much time as I might have liked with some of my favourite characters, although I suppose that is the crazy ride which is Wonderland. Either way, many of the characters are now very symbolic within society, with the grinning Cheshire cat and the twins Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee often coined within phrases.
Both of the books are short and sweet, maintaining that dream like quality. Is Alice truly dreaming, or this is actually her reality? That, I suppose, is up to each individual reader to consider.
Whilst I did not prefer the second book quite as much as the iconic first, it still followed very closely in its wake. The second book is very much centred upon the idea of a game of chess, and I thought this was very cleverly done, as readers will experience for themselves. The characters were just as plentiful, vibrant and strange. As Virginia Wolf has even commented, they ‘come skipping and lapping across the page’ (p. 246), fulfilling our imaginations.
I think Alice in Wonderland is a brilliant book for children to read and is a wonderful introduction for them into the world of imagination and creativity. Having said that, I think it remains just as entertaining for adult readers, and is something I think everyone should try and experience. It is, after all, a cult classic.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
Publish: Penguin English Library