The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland

Belknap: Harvard Univ. 2015. 496p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780674967793. $29.95. LIT
Douglas-Fairhurst (English literature, Magdalen Coll., Univ. of Oxford; Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist) offers readers a glimpse behind the curtain—the story of Lewis Caroll's Alice is told through the account of her creator's life (1832–98). This biographical approach delivers a unique perspective not only on the character but also on Carroll. The making of Alice in Wonderland had an enormous effect on its author as well as the literature of the period. Douglas-Fairhurst places Carroll, née Charles Dodgson, firmly in his own age, a decision that helps to explain some of Dodgson's more controversial-seeming behaviors, such as photographing nude children. Elucidating that Dodgson wasn't alone in his actions either justifies his deeds or allows him to share the guilt. Douglas-Fairhurst details these events in a lighthearted, almost mocking tone that leaves the reader wondering about the culture of the Victorian Age.
VERDICT The backstory of Alice in Wonderland is almost as enchanting as the tale Carroll wrote, and Douglas-Fairhurst skillfully presents it here. This engaging work will interest readers who enjoy literary history.
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