A guest review by @lazypages
Have you ever revisited a novel that you read as a child and realised that there was so much more going on than you realised? Going back to this classic by Lewis Carroll was a little bit like watching a Disney film and realising that the humour operates on two levels to meet the needs of both child and adult viewers. My second foray into this weird and wonderful novel saw things that confused my younger self finally snap into focus. The fluffy cuteness of characters like the always-late white rabbit and the sleepy dormouse at the Hatter’s tea party seemed less important than unravelling the unsettling nature of Wonderland itself. Gone is my willingness to let the eccentric and the strange float past me in a haze of childhood imagination and suddenly I am seeing meaning in everything!
I’m not saying that now that I’m grown, my skills in technical analysis have been honed to laser sharp precision, rather I get the strangeness that underscores Carroll’s world. Far from making more sense, the adult world seems to be one where reason is more and more elusive. Over the past few years with multiple leadership spills under its belt, our government has seemed more like the court of the execution-obsessed Red Queen and the constant media spin paralleling the painting of the white roses by the long suffering cards. Indeed, international politics in general seems to be the stuff of our wildest imaginations, so crazy that we couldn’t in all seriousness believe we would be in a world where reason seems to be the least valuable commodity.
Rather than feeling like I’ve got my life together, I find myself more and more like Alice, trying to follow ridiculous vague and ambiguous instructions to make my life more perfect, metaphorically growing and shrinking and never quite making the grade. So it’s probably no surprise that the most evocative moments in this novel are Alice’s mellow conversation with the hookah smoking caterpillar and her experiences with the Mad Hatter. Both situations are times when Alice has to learn to sit back and let the world around her just happen, without trying to control or direct it. She has to be an observer and really, isn’t that what reading does for us? It forces us to observe the world differently and reconsider our position in it. If we can be resilient like Alice and learn to work with the craziness that life and this world brings us, maybe we can find our way home again.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was featured in the August 2019 Classic parcel from the NovelTea Book Club. If you’d like to learn more, or sign up to receive one of our monthly book & tea subscription parcels, please feel free to check out the rest of our website.