“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
In 1865, a man named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson published a novel under the name Lewis Carroll. It began life as the verbal musings of Revered Dodgson, told to his friend’s daughters, Lorena, Alice and Edith, whilst they floated in a boat upon the river Isis in Oxford. Alice was so enamoured with the tale she begged Dodgson to write it down for her, which he did, embellishing the tale further for publication.
Almost 160 years later, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is still a childhood favourite, and no passage into adulthood is complete without following the eponymous title character into Wonderland. The story of a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole, meets The Mad Hatter and The Queen of Hearts, and emerges from Wonderland a different sort of girl, ready to grow up, endures and still resonates with readers today.
But it’s so much more than a children’s book, which might explain its on-going appeal. Carroll was famously a logician, hence the bizarre and sometimes maddening riddles and frequent references to maths, the pondering (and possibly drug-addled Caterpillar), and the bloodthirsty Queen. Does that explain why the book continues to fascinate and delight audiences today?
It’s been referenced in songs, and popular television shows, made into countless film adaptations and even computer games, but no adaptation to date has successfully captured the world that Alice falls into. For that, you need to read the book. You need to experience being transported into the topsy-turvy world that Carroll created, where you don’t know quite what the rules are.
You deserve an adventure in a strange, fantastical place where dormice live in teapots and croquet is played with flamingos. Who hasn’t wanted to hold a baby, only for it to turn into a pig?
If you’ve not yet read it, I’d heartily recommend it. There are plenty of books that can simply take you to another world, but Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can take you back into childhood. Back into a place where everything is a threat, or an opportunity. Back to a place where there is a lesson to be learned, and where everything you say and do is a chance to shape the world into a place you want to live in. At the end of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, she is threatened with being beheaded for arguing that the Queen’s logic is flawed. It’s the classic ‘It’s not fair’ scenario and who amongst us hasn’t played it out as an adult, and, more to the point, won?
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll has managed to create a world that is tantalisingly close to our own, with the addition of talking animals and a treacherous social structure. Added to the fact it may or may not be a dream, and you have a recipe that does not need an ‘Eat Me’ label on it to make you want to indulge.
Melinda Black loves books more than people. She runs The Black Emporium on Etsy, where she sells jewellery made out of rescued books, including some Alice-themed items. Because she, like all the best people, is a fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.