June 22, 2016

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Title: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release date: 2008 (first published in 1865)
Pages: 176


* "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!".*

On an ordinary summer's afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter's Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute . . .

 * Oh dear, what nonsense I'm talking!*

* Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How are wonder what you're at! *

There is no denying that most children –and adults– have heard of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland; that the Cheshire cat and its grin are familiar to many children; that many have attended a Mad Tea Party, be it from near of far. There is however quite a difference between watching one of the many film adaptations or seeing the play performed on stage and reading the original novel.
In fact, I would argue that Lewis Carroll’s prose is part of the extraordinary universe he created. Readers who find any sense of normality in the first few pages will soon be proved wrong, as everything quickly turns absurd. Alice grows and shrinks continuously; she meets strange animals and characters and witnesses unexplainable events. And the concise and comic writing style adds to the strange atmosphere of the story. There are no lengthy descriptions or innumerable details, which means the scenes are mostly left to the reader’s imagination. However, the brilliant wordplays and puns will no doubt guide their interpretation.
I must admit I wondered a few times while reading if the book was really intended for children. I finally reached the conclusion that it can be read on different levels, much like most children’s literature. Children will enjoy the strange universe and the funny characters, as well as Alice’s personality and her adventures, while adults will focus more on the prose and the underlying philosophical questions. Although the book was written 1865, the language is precise and friendly and still perfectly understandable nowadays.
Alice is the typical example of a little girl who wants to grow up and her perspective on the events can be hilarious at times, while annoying at others. She tries to use what she has learned at school during her adventure, but she sometimes associates ideas that do not go together, which results in a comical effect… even more so because everything is rather queer. She does not like being told what to do, but she does not always think before she expresses her ideas, which often offends some of the characters (especially when she speaks about them being eaten). She sometimes behaves like a child and sometimes like an adult and it is therefore difficult to define how old she is.
The characters all have their own personality and I enjoyed the fact that the author did not use the common stereotypes which often come up in children’s literature. Of course, I love the Cheshire cat for its grin and its magical appearances, but my favourite scene is when the Mock-Turtle discusses school; an utterly funny moment. I was laughing so much that the man sitting opposite me on the train ended up asking me what I was reading.
Although Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is very popular in contemporary culture, I would recommend discovering this strange universe with the original book. It is a quick read, but everything is perfectly balanced, depicting a nonsensical wonderland while letting the readers imagine the details how they please. An immensely enjoyable story which will appeal for readers of all ages, children and adults alike.


* In short * 
Did you say absurd?

Although Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is familiar to most of us, it is worth discovering the original source of inspiration of this extraordinarily absurd universe. Lewis Carroll’s funny prose, full of puns and wordplays, adds to the depth of the various characters – humans, animals or… An immensely enjoyable story which will appeal for readers of all ages, children and adults alike.

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