Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
Weary of her storybook, one “without pictures or conversations,” the young and imaginative Alice follows a hasty hare underground–to come face-to-face with some of the strangest adventures and most fantastic characters in all of literature.
The Ugly Duchess, the Mad Hatter, the weeping Mock Turtle, the diabolical Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat–each more eccentric than the last–could only have come from that master of sublime nonsense, Lewis Carroll.
In penning this brilliant burlesque of children’s literature, Carroll has written a farcical satire of rigid Victorian society, an arresting parody of the fears, anxieties, and complexities of growing up.
There are, of course, many gorgeous editions of Alice in the world (I have the one illustrated by Oleg Lipchenko), but this is the edition I read. Plus this version has the original – classic – illustrations by John Tenniel.
I’ve read Alice once or twice when I was younger, though I was more familiar with the Disney movie (which, oddly enough, I can barely remember now), but it wasn’t until I had to re-read it in my last year of university (for a children’s lit course which I loved for the reading list, but not so much for the professor who stretched Pinocchio out for two weeks instead of the two days we were supposed to discuss it) that I realized how much I loved it.
This is a book that speaks to the nonsensical part of me, the part that prefers to fantasize my way into a story rather than, you know, do actual work.
I find it interesting how a lot of adaptations combine elements from both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. For example, did you know it’s really Humpty Dumpty in Looking Glass who tells Alice about “un-birthdays”? Humpty Dumpty was actually one of my favourite parts of Looking Glass because he’s quite amusing, if a little pompous. The one adaptation I’ve personally seen that remains quite faithful (despite taking some liberties with Alice’s age) is the ballet production.
My least favourite part of Looking Glass, however, is the chapter with the Knight. I can’t even remember if it was a White Knight or a Red Knight, but either way, it was pretty tedious and felt like it lasted longer than necessary.
Wonderland, on the other hand, didn’t really have a “low” moment for me. Maybe it’s because it’s the more familiar story, but it moved quickly and, of course, introduced a lot of the iconic characters: the Mad Hatter and March Hare (and the Dormouse); the Cheshire Cat (with one of my favourite lines: “We’re all mad here”); the Queen, King, and Knave of Hearts, etc.
I don’t really know what else to say about this book. This is one of those classic pieces of children’s literature that I genuinely love, that I think everyone should read – whether or not you end up enjoying it – if only because it’s a celebration of the power of one’s imagination. It’s quite funny and (obviously) whimsical, but maybe it’s more relatable more if you were an imaginative child (and continue to be an imaginative adult).