Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Dover Thrift Editions)Summary: A brat of a girl falls into a fantasy world

One of my reading goals this year was to read more old books. Some of these I am re-reading, some I am reading for the first time.  If you have a kindle or like to listen to audiobooks, there are tons of free classics available (although of varying quality.)

I picked up about 30 free classic kindle and audiobooks through a promotion (some still available) last month.  Jim Dale’s (narrator for Harry Potter) version of Alice in Wonderland.  This is both good and bad.  Dale is a very good narrator.  But some of his voices seems to be the same as some of his Harry Potter voices and that provides a little unintended humor and confusion.

Prior to this I have never read Alice in Wonderland.  But I knew the basic story through the many parodies and cartoon remakes.  Alice follows a rabbit down a hole.  Alice drinks and eats things that make her grown and shrink.  She meets the smiling cat that disappears and reappears. And then she meets a pack of playing cards where the Queen keeps crying ‘off with their head’ every few minutes.

What was good is that Carroll did seem to ‘get’ kids.  Alice’s voice was very child like.  But she was also a brat and curious and kept getting into things.  That is what moves the story along.  And it is also true that this book reads as much like a drug trip as a children’s book.  A lot of things just didn’t seem to have points.  Why was there a baby that was being held by the Duchess getting banged over the head with frying pans that eventually turned into a pig?  We never know.

This is not one of those classics that I think everyone should read.  It is only about 100 pages and just over 2 hours in audio.  But I still almost gave up on it a couple times.  It just seemed too odd and lacking in a compelling narrative.  If you do want to read it so you can cross it off your list of important books, there are a ton of versions available.  It is in the public domain so anyone can sell it or record it or give it away as you wish.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Purchase Links: Paperback, Free Kindle Book, $0.49 Audible.com Audiobook, Jim Dale Audible.com Audiobook

3 Comments

I read this recently, in bite-sized chunks on the Kindle app on my tiny Blackberry screen, to “redeem” otherwise wasted time out and about. I agree with your analysis 🙂

Alice in Wonderland is, first and foremost, a work of comedy and parody. Complaining that it is “too odd and lacking in a compelling narrative” seems to me like missing the point, as if you made that complaint about “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or about a Looney Tunes cartoon. Lewis Carroll was a parodist at heart–many of the poems in the book are direct parodies of serious poems that were popular at the time. More generally, the book can be seen as a sort of parody of adult society and manners as seen through the eyes of a child, which can certainly seem pretty odd and pointless.

For anyone who’s interested in seeing what Carroll was parodying and catching all the jokes, I recommend Martin Gardner’s annotated version (“The Annotated Alice”).

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