2013 Challenges, Books, The Classics Club

Book 175: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

Carroll, Lewis - Alice's Adventures in WonderlandOverall I found this book dull and lacking. I’m not sure if it has to do with it being built up so much throughout my lifetime (the two big films: the animated Disney which I grew up with and the 2010 Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version) or perhaps because it’s only half the story I know (I didn’t read Through the Looking Glass with it), but I was completely and utterly underwhelmed with this book. On the plus side it counted for the Back to Classics, Mount TBR and The Classics Club Challenges.

I will say that the book is incredibly short and that worked in its favor. If I had to read more than 89 pages of what came across to me as rambling nonsense, I would not have finished the book. It did make me wonder about whether it was a novel or a novella and a quick internet search says novel. (Novels feature more conflicts than novellas and novellas feature more than short stories according to the ever accurate Wikipedia.)

For example, most of the book came across sounding a lot like this to me:

“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.” (63)

See, gibberish.

Although this novel is the lighter of the two novels, and I think the fact that it is a dream supports this, it is very indecisive and inconclusive. I felt like there was no ending and that it was just a ramble through a dream without any purpose or meaning. And I guess that makes sense if it’s a nonsensical novel, but it wasn’t for me.

Recommendation: Plan on reading both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass if you want to enjoy the whole story. I don’t know if I’ll read Through the Looking Glass this year, but I should so that things aren’t left in turmoil for me.

Opening Line: “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures of conversation?'”

Closing Line: “Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make THEIR eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.” (Whited out.)


24 thoughts on “Book 175: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll”

  1. Oh no! I love Alice in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass, but I like that one a little less)! I’m a big fan of all the silly wordplay, though. WORD NERD.


    1. Haahaa, I mean I can see where people like it and can appreciate that, I just wasn’t amused. I feel like The Looking Glads was more my speed, at least because that’s the portions I’ve always liked more in the films, because of the darkness and macabre of it.


  2. I read both Alice books for a school project in eleventh grade and I agree, the nonsensical nature of the books is a bit difficult to deal with when we’re so used to structured plots and whatnot. I put aside my uncomfortability with it and went on and I must say I really enjoyed the books. I think what made me appreciate it as a ‘story’ rather than ‘nonsense’ was that at least Alice displayed some kind of character arc. She begins as a proper girl who follows her parents orders and conforms socially but realizes through wonderland that maybe social norms are a bit ridiculous because she has witnessed the even more ridiculous social norms of the wonderlanders, and is forced to act in many ways considered uncouth and wild by the world she is from. Consequently, her acting as the norm of her own world appears as ridiculous to the wonderlanders, throwing the whole idea of social normity into question. A statement on Lewis Caroll’s part about the comedy of conformity, I think, and how acting outside of the box can add a certain sense of wonder to our lives.

    And also, I agree you should read both of the books. Through the Looking Glass if i remember is a bit more structured and the whole chess game thing is pretty awesome ^.^


    1. I definitely see what you’re saying and understand Carroll’s ideas, but it just didn’t do it for me. I think if Alice came across as more mature and then she bucked societal norms it would’ve had more impact with me. To me it was more a proper child, because you are correct the norms are there, who gets lost in a fantastical world of ridiculousness. I’ll have to look for Carroll’s statement and read it, but if it doesn’t come across in the novel itself that, to me, means it’s lacking.


  3. Gibberish is certainly one of the main points of the novel. It’s something to be enjoyed in all its perplexity–try to keep yourself always searching for meaning and just have fun with it. That’s the key to Alice, imo.


  4. It really was rambling nonsense, wasn’t it?? I didn’t really care for it either, but I think it may have been because it was different from the Disney movie. (Some people might say Disney ruins classics, ha). Anywho, it just sounded like a big trippy experience…


    1. Yeah – I mean I felt the new Depp version was close to it, but I liked the darkness of the portions pulled form Through the Looking Glass more than the frivolity of the first book.


      1. I haven’t seen the Johnny Depp version. But since it’s Tim Burton and Johnny Depp I assumed the trippy-ness would play out well…they’re such a great actor/director combo!


  5. It’s funny–you aren’t the first blogger of late to not be over the moon about a classic children’s book they read. I can see why you were frustrated with the wording though–trying to read and comprehend that passage pre-coffee was really difficult! I haven’t read either yet although they are on my list. I’ll be curious to see if I have the same reaction.


    1. Yeah, it was just a little bit too much. But, with me, it could be many number of things for, it not being the best time to read it to me just not having the patience. I can totally see why a kid would love it though.


  6. LOL. i read them together so I think my enjoyment was much higher than yours. But it sounds like you didn’t enjoy it at all so not too hard to achieve. If you haven’t read Peter Pan I suggest not to. I think Disney is ruining the classics for you 😉


    1. It’s on my list, but I’m prepared for it. I went to a panel about it at the 2012 Boston Book Festival. And I’m not sure it’s Disney. I know they’re not exactly helping, but I also know most of them are actually much darker than those I grew up with and I feel like I should like them more!


    1. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I wanted Alice to be good, it has such a pop culture context, but like I said apparently that is Through the Looking Glass. I loved Little Women, I’ll have to check out your list tomorrow.


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