Saturday, 8 October 2011
Book Review: "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll
This book is perfect nonsense.
If you're looking for a story with well rounded characters and a coherent, logical plot, then this really isn't the book for you. If you've a taste for the bizarre, a talent for willingly suspending your disbelief and a hankering for verbal acrobatics, then this book will make you chortle with glee.
"Alice" is a short book, and this is a short review. My chief enjoyment in this story came from the verbal wranglings between Alice and the people of Wonderland, among which the best is surely the triumphant and memorable scene at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. The book twists, turns inverts and mocks common phrases and sentiments, challenging some of the universal truths that children are taught to believe without question. The level of wit almost reaches that of Oscar Wilde, and children who read the book are exposed to, and encouraged to emulate, a freedom with language and a lightness of the imagination that can only serve to enrich their literary experiences.
My only complaint against "Alice" is the feeble ending. Alice's abrupt awakening and instant return to normal life undermines the influence of the madcap events in Wonderland. It's possible this is intentional, the "only a dream" idea may have made the book more palatable to straight-laced parents in Lewis Carroll's day. But I felt it was like cramming all of the book's previous exuberance into a box, and tucking it away out of sight. The subsequent daydream of Alice's sister did little to dispel the notion.
Despite this flaw the book is still light years ahead of most children's books today. It is still a classic because it is rich, imaginative, humorous, irreverent and challenging. Everything a book-and especially a children's book- should be.