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CRP: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll (Audiobook)

The Classics Reclamation Project is my personal challenge to read and enjoy the classics. Each Wednesday, I post about the classic I’m reading at the moment.

The Classics Reclamation Project

I’m still smack dab in the middle of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I spent most of last week traveling, and there was no way I was going to lug around the all-in-one edition I’ve been reading! Instead, I listened to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, read by Jim Dale.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865. It is a whimsical and bizarre little tale about a girl named Alice and what happens when she follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole. There is much changing of size, meeting of nonsensical creatures, and general bewilderment.

I liked Alice. She struck me as being a sensible child. She clearly enjoys making up conversations and debates with herself, which I thought was cute. She takes pretty much everything that happens to her in stride, which is impressive, seeing as she has some extremely odd adventures. The adventures themselves were just a tad too wacky and directionless for me. It seemed like Alice just wandered around aimlessly for a while while inexplicable and unrelated things happened to her.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (audiobook cover)As for the story, I was a little disappointed, though for a rather silly reason. I vaguely recall the Disney adaptation from many years ago. I was quickly reminded of what I didn’t initially remember as the story progressed. The Disney version stayed incredibly close to the original story, which was a bit of a letdown. There weren’t many new things for me to discover.

There were some parts of the story I quite enjoyed, though. My favorite was when Alice and the Gryphon visit the Mock Turtle. Not only do the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle describe and then demonstrate the Lobster Quadrille, which is a dance involving lobsters, but the Mock Turtle also sings the “Beautiful Soup” song, which is thoroughly entertaining as rendered by Jim Dale.

At a few moments, Carroll’s narrative style reminded me of Lewis’s style in The Chronicles of Narnia. These were usually while Carroll was describing something Alice was thinking or an aspect of her character. Both authors were skilled at writing for/about children, and both had powerful imaginations. Though I like the stories of Narnia better, I enjoy the prose in both.

The audiobook I chose was narrated by Jim Dale, who did the Harry Potter books (no small feat!). He was a delight to listen to and did an especially amazing job with the character voices; I could hardly believe it was the same person speaking. His pacing fell right at that comfortable spot where it neither drags nor rushes, and the drama with which he infused his reading kept the story moving along nicely. The audio is only about three hours long, and it definitely went by quickly.

I have the other Alice book, Through the Looking-Glass, on order at the library and plan to listen to it as well. I’m curious to experience a Carroll novel without so much previous knowledge of the plot. (Though I know that at least Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who are actually part of Through the Looking-Glass, appeared in the Disney movie Alice in Wonderland.) I think it was my familiarity with the story that kept me from loving Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and not some fault of Carroll’s. Though I was never overly fond of the movie, so perhaps it’s just not my sort of book!

Two tangential comments before I wrap this up: First, did you know what Lewis Carroll’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson? I did not. I wonder how many authors’ names are actually pen names to which I’m completely oblivious? And second, talking about one author with the last name of Lewis and another with the same name as a first name is confusing to type!

If you’ve read (or want to read) anything by Carroll, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  • http://www.thingsmeanalot.com/ Nymeth

    I don’t think that’s a silly reason – it’s actually why I try my best not to watch films before I read the boooks (of course, as a child I often didn’t even know they were books). If I already know everything I’ll inevitably be let down.

    If you’re interested in learning more about Carroll, I highly recommend Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbott, a non-fiction graphic novel about the Alice books and their author. It’s a mindblowing book in so many different ways!

    • Erin

      I often prefer the film or the book, and I usually don’t bother with both. When I do, I usually end up disappointed with whichever I pick up second.

      Thanks for the recommendation! I don’t read many graphic novels and so am always interested to hear about good ones.

  • http://www.reviewsbylola.wordpress.com Stephanie

    As familiar as I am with the story of Alice in Wonderland, I didn’t actually read the book until about two years ago. What a fun story!

    • Erin

      I missed it as a child as well. I’m not sure what I would have thought of it if I’d read it (a) as a kid, and/or (b) before I saw the movie!

  • http://zenleaf.amandagignac.com Amanda

    So I’m one of those people who really hated the Disney adaptation of this book, without ever having read the actual book. I just never liked Alice in Wonderland. I finally read the book last December – it was my book club’s January selection – and I hated it just as much, couldn’t even go on to read the Looking Glass book. Maybe if it had been narrated by Jim Dale I would have gotten more out of it, but I wasn’t listening to audiobooks yet…

    We did have a fun discussion about the book. My favorite story about Lewis Carroll himself was that the queen apparently liked these books so much she asked him to send her a copy of his next book, signed. Well, Lewis Carroll wrote a lot of math textbooks, and that was his next book, so he sent it to her…and signed it… 😀

    • Erin

      I wasn’t its biggest fan, that’s for sure. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pick up the book form of Through the Looking-Glass and was disappointed to find that Jim Dale doesn’t seem to have narrated it. On audio, though, with a decent narrator, I’m willing to give it a go. It’s so short I don’t mind slogging through!

      That is a wonderful story about Carroll! That makes me like the book a little more, somehow. What a goofball/man of his word!

  • http://www.buriedinprint.com Buried In Print

    I read this for a book group too (there’s an annotated edition for those who are obsessed with such things), and I quite enjoyed it in that context. My favourite part, though, was borrowing a variety of editions from the children’s library (not annotated ;)) and comparing the variety of artistic interpretations. Fascinating!

    • Erin

      It might be fun to read an annotated edition; it would add more to the reading than what’s there in the regular story. All the different illustrations are certainly fun!

  • http://wormhole.carnelianvalley.com Charlie

    I haven’t read the book (I have a copy of it somewhere) and like you am very familiar with the film. It is such a strange story, and it’s that that’s keeping me from adding it to my own classics plan. From the little I have read of it I like the writing, though if we’re comparing two Lewis’s it’s got to be Narnia. I didn’t know about Tweedledee and Tweedledum!

    • Erin

      It is definitely strange…perhaps a little too strange for me. The writing, the “classic” status, and the fact that it’s so short will make Through the Looking-Glass tolerable for me, at least, but I haven’t set my hopes too high!

  • http://lifewithbooks.com Jenners

    Now this is a classic I think I should try. Did you see the movie version that came out with Johnny Depp? It was trippy.

    • Erin

      You might really like it! I’ve not seen the Johnny Depp movie, but I plan to once I’ve listened to Through the Looking-Glass, which is on its way to me through the library system right now. I will watch pretty much any movie Johnny Depp makes :-)

  • http://reviews.rebeccareid.com Rebecca Reid

    I enjoyed the book of Alice as well as the movie. But then, I love rereading things and don’t really believe in spoilers. I think Carroll has lots of nice wordplay but it’s been a few years (5?) since I’ve read this. I’ll have to revisit it.

    Through the Looking Glass is quite different (less “innocent”) but still very fun, I think.

    • Erin

      Carroll’s wordplay was definitely fun, and the book certainly had a whimsical quality to it. As for Through the Looking-Glass, less innocent but still fun sounds good to me. I’m curious now to see how it’s different!

  • http://www.lovelaughterinsanity.com Trish

    I’ve said this a million times it seems but I love that so many bloggers are reclaiming the classics.

    As for Alice, interesting what you say about the movie staying so close to the book. I remember the opposite! When you read Through the Looking Glass you’ll see how so much of the second book is also incorporated into the movie as well. Hope you enjoy it!!

    • Erin

      I love it, too!

      As for Alice, I guess maybe I should have said that so many pieces of the book were in the movie. I seem to remember things in the movie that were not in the book, and vice versa, but for the most part there seemed to be quite a bit of overlap. I’m expecting to find a few things from the movie that weren’t in Alice turning up in Through the Looking-Glass! Now if it would just arrive at the library… :-)