“‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); ‘now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!'”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland AND ITS NOT-so-catchy sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, have never been out of print since 1865 and 1871, respectively. Moreover, when I read about Alice and her rabbit for the first time 134 years later, it’s clear why. I was a bit jealous of her adventures, and who wouldn’t be? Tea parties, talking animals, funny potions, animate playing cards, croquet games – it’s a middle-class child’s dream (quite literally, in fact!). It may be a children’s story with quite an obnoxious, arrogant, precocious little girl at its centre, but it’s a powerful book. Its vivid imagery and narrative structure, amongst other things, are unofficial benchmarks for the fantasy genre and together with the assistance of the dazzling Disney adaptation, I am sure I can speak for everybody when I say that the images of white rabbits and mad hatters are ones that we will be forever acquainted with.
Although the defining book(s) of my childhood was the Harry Potter series, Alice deserves a mention because I loved this book just as much. But I could rave about what I like about it all day but for all the tea in Wonderland, I can’t exactly tell you why I like this book so much. It flows seamlessly with no ‘…’ moments or (dare I say clichéed) cliffhangers, but that’s not the real reason why. It’s a classic piece of literature, and I’m sure that counts for something, but that’s not why. It’s fantastical, and I’ve always liked fantasy books, but I don’t think it’s that either. I realised what it was when I was reading it again when I was 18 (the standard 18-year-old thing to do, I know). Devoid of Disneyana that easily distracts you from the story, what appeals to me more than anything about the book is that it has the rare ability to transform itself – like a caterpillar to a butterfly – when you read it as an adult. It’s still bonkers, definitely, and the sorts of conversations she has with mice and dodos are still as entertaining as ever, but you can appreciate the literary merit of the story, i.e. the genius of Lewis Carroll. The book is absolutely ridden with puns, so many in fact, and they simply passed over my head when I first read it. As well as being really witty tickles of the English language, they just enrich the nonsensicality of Alice and her world even more, but I won’t give you any examples; out of context they would be pointless. So, if you’ve not read it at all then it’s worth a visit just for those. If you’ve not read it since childhood, then you should still visit it anyway. Or else it’s off with your head.
Oh, and don’t worry, Alice – you can be forgiven for forgetting how to speak good English; ‘curiouser and curiouser’ wouldn’t be what would come out of my mouth if I was ‘opening out like the largest telescope that ever was’…