I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to review this book. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE this book, have since I was a little girl. Hell, 3 years ago I dressed as the White Rabbit for my Halloween party. At LCC this year (local comic con) there was a girl running around as Alice in complete character and I almost cried when she stopped at my table to look around. I almost made her break character when I told her she’s been my Hero since I was a little girl. And that’s not a lie. My introduction to Alice and Wonderland was probably the same as most children’s …through Disney. Even as a little kid I recognized a kindred spirit, a child that doesn’t want to follow the monotony of adult life, who maybe can’t get along with other children, but who is also quite happy with traveling through her own imagined world. I saw myself in Alice and it made me feel less alienated and weird.
When I was older and found a copy of the book I grabbed it (I’ve owned the book several times but it keeps going missing). The original one by Lewis Carroll has both stories: “Alice’s adventures in Wonderland” and “through the looking glass”. To be honest, I prefer Through the looking glass, but I don’t see them as separate entities, more just a continuation of one story, that’s why usually when I say the book I blur both titles as one long title. They also have tons of little illustrations though the book, and I’m a sucker for books with pictures.
As most of us know (if you don’t, where have you been?) Alice fell asleep out in the yard and woke up to a strange rabbit with a pocket watch rushing around fretting over being late. Alice follows this strange being and tumbles down his rabbit hole into a world of child-like insanity. I’ve read many different articles and what-not describing the drugs Carroll was/might be on, and reading it as I got older, you can kind of see it. But also the story is very much organized chaos. It holds a child-like wonder, the ability for them to look at any situation and go “but what if?”. As adults we lose that ability, life kind of beats the wonder and imagination out of us. Wonderland is everything that we have lost. With the duchess and her pepper and pigs, the Red queen trying to behead everyone in her kingdom, the eternal tea party, and a raging flood caused by her tears. All these strange little events are strung together, even though the world is constantly changing and being influenced by Alice herself. Through listening to my boyfriend’s 9-year-old son, I’ve heard the craziest stories and ‘what ifs’ and I saw a lot of that mirrored in Alice. Reading it you have to remind yourself, “how would a child react to this?” I’ve heard complaints that Alice is unrealistic because she just goes with whatever is thrown at her, but that is what children do. Alice falls down a tunnel and sees something that says ‘eat me’. Of course she’s going to dive into the sweets.
There have been many different versions of Alice in Wonderland: from animated movies that capture the heart of the story, High budget films that forget the heart of the story and try to impose organization and politics, to video games that darken the story and run on the idea that Alice was driven insane. I love darker re-tellings of chidren’s stories, so the Alice video games were right up my alley. It kept the insanity but darkened it, and many of the characters the animated movie had to leave out, but still had a bit of child-like wonder.
I could talk for hours about how much I loved this book growing up, and how I still love it, and every year or so I will pull my copy back out to read and remind me of what it was like to be a child made of pure imagination.
The book is a little hard to follow because it is written in a older and more formal version of English, and just the fact the book is bat-shit crazy. But I will recommend this book until I’m blue in the face (The Tim Burton movie, not so much.) for it’s wild and fun imagination and child-like wonder.