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.
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.
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!