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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Alice in Wonderland Book review

“Alice in Wonderland is a children’s book.”
“Alice in Wonderland is an old book.”
“Alice in Wonderland is a classic book.”

All things I’ve heard people say time and time again, but in my opinion the most important thing isn’t said often enough. Alice in Wonderland is a good book.

Now, you may think you’re in for a very bias review. In that case I hope to both disappoint and persuade you. Disappoint, because I’m not going to gush about its merits without showing just cause. I freely admit that I do want to persuade you that this is a good, well written, book suitable for anyone. If that makes it a children’s book, then fair enough, I can live with that. I’m not saying I want you to like it, that’s an entirely different thing.

So, if you don’t know, (is there anyone?) Alice in Wonderland was written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pen-name of Lewis Carroll, and follows the adventures of our heroine, Alice, as she adventures through Wonderland and attempts to escape. Of course that is an apt description and a vast understatement of the plot. Alice herself isn’t depicted as a truly likable character. She can be obstinate, and obtuse. Her thought can be somewhat random and muddled, but can’t that be said about all our thoughts. Some of the, mostly anthropomorphic, characters she meets on her journey may seem rather clichéd to our contemporary eyes, but remember this was written in 1865 and has been credited for inventing some, if not most, of those clichés.

So why am I reviewing a book that was written almost one and a half centuries ago? Well, because I like it, but more than that I think it still reads well and has something interesting to say. Isn’t that what a good book should do? Yes, the language and prose is dated, and a modern book would probably not be written in this style. Things move on, but good ideas can live forever, and Wonderland is positively bursting with ideas. Logic is twisted into any shape Dodgson needs it to be, and the, occasionally inane, twittering voice of Alice is always written to further the nonsense of the story.
It may be argued that the plot, such as it is, is fairly inconsequential to the story. Nonsense, you may say… well yes nonsense indeed. The book is full of it.

I said I wanted to convince you that Alice in Wonderland is a good book. Well, it has a story, I won’t say plot, which positively drags the reader through it, not letting up for an instant. It is full of interesting and bizarre characters, and has a heroine who, if not immediately likable, is a complex and solid creation that drives the story forwards. Although the language and style of the writing is old, it is easy to read and follow. I’m not saying everyone will like the story, but it is a solid read, that in my opinion still technically stacks up well against the best of our current writing. Not bad for book from the mid eighteen hundreds.

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